By Matthew Brett
There is a lot in life that we do without knowing how we came to learn it. For example, how do we come to know what to say or not to say in particular contexts; how do we know when to speak up and when to keep quiet?

“This is the knowledge, the know-how that is the glue that makes it possible for us to work with others in teams and to progress in our careers,” says Professor Peter Cantillon. “It is the stuff in between.”

Professor Cantillon will be delivering what promises to be an engaging presentation on November 19 titled, “Apprenticeship learning in clinical teams: the role of the implicit curriculum.” Details and registration.

Cohosted by the Institute of Health Sciences Education and the Faculty Development Office, this Health Sciences Education Rounds will be a refreshing take on that which often goes unspoken.

Professor Cantillon has been studying how apprenticeship learning works in clinical teams as part of a programme of research looking at how clinicians become teachers. His work began with ideas developed during a six-month sabbatical in 2008 at the then-Centre for Medical Education at McGill.

Professor Cantillon is a faculty developer and established the first Masters in Clinical Education program in Ireland, a program that has approximately 500 graduates, most of whom are now engaged in educational leadership and scholarship within their own institutions in Ireland and overseas.

He also led the establishment of the Irish Network of Healthcare Educators (INHED), an organisation dedicated to supporting teacher development and the scholarship of health professions education on the island of Ireland.

The role of the implicit curriculum

It is widely accepted that clinical education is the most important formative period in the development of health professionals.

The implicit curriculum is knowing how to lead the ward round, knowing how to present a case, knowing how to convince radiology to do an investigation they may not want to do, knowing when a colleague is struggling and stepping in to help without being obvious about it.

“Few scholars equate clinical education with learning the implicit curriculum,” says Professor Cantillon. “Most people talk about conscious and deliberate teaching—the explicit curriculum.”

“My mission, and I did choose to accept it, is to bring the implicit curriculum into the light and to show perhaps how it can be leveraged to improve the quality and effectiveness of clinical education as well as inform the design of future faculty development interventions.”

Registrants to the November 19 event can anticipate new insights about the implicit curriculum, including novel approaches to increasing teacher and learner awareness of hidden teaching and learning opportunities in everyday practice.

Hop across the pond, virtually

Professor Cantillon comes from “a small green blob, (Ireland), just off mainland Europe,” as he describes it. “Coming from a small place, I wanted to go to a big place – the bigger the better.”

Canada was an obvious choice because it’s big, and because there are a number of centres of excellence in health professions education, so it was only a matter of deciding where to go.

“In truth, that wasn’t a very difficult decision either,” Professor Cantillon says. “The Centre for Medical Education at McGill, now the Institute, is one of the world leading centres for scholarship and development in the field of faculty development.”

Professor Cantillon arrived at the Institute in 2008 for his six-month visiting scholar stay and was taken aback by the studious silence of the Institute.

“It was a bit of a shock to come to a place where people actually did some real work – they knew about focus and productivity,” he joked.

Professor Cantillon nevertheless made sure to transport his Irish gift of gab across the pond, struggling to implement regular coffee breaks until he learned Institute members enjoy a slice of cake.

“People left their lofty thoughts, the hush of their offices and came down to the joy of cake and coffee whilst enduring the endless chatter of the little Irish chap,” he says. “I’m sure that the ritual of the coffee break ended as soon as I left and I suspect that productivity increased, but we did have some great chats over mugs of black stuff and an endless variety of sweet freshly unfrozen confectionery. It was a real privilege to work with such great people, even if they don’t compete with me when it comes to blether.”

“Apprenticeship learning in clinical teams: the role of the implicit curriculum” takes place at 4:30 p.m. on November 19.  Details and registration.

November 4, 2020