• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Medical School Lecturers

    Liveblogging from neurology class...

    Today we're learning about language and higher cortical executive processes. Overall, one of the more interesting things to learn about in neurology. So why is it so boring? And why are there only 23 people, out of a student class over 240, here?

    Medicine is an interesting profession, because it constantly stives for the new -- new medicine, new procedure, new discovery -- while stubbornly and stupidly holding on to the old. This includes surgeons working billions of hours, and didactic learning.

    they grasp didactic learning like a cadaver's hand in rigor mortis grasps a broken tool
    At my school, we see this poignantly. Embracing modern technology, my school has wi-fi in every classroom and videotapes every lecture. This allows students to review the lectures from home, at faster speeds if preferable, or not go to class at all. On the other hand, my medical school stubbornly holds to lecturers in stand alone courses (biochemistry, neurology, etc.) instead of embracing a new, organ systems-based teaching model and moving away from didactic learning.

    Having taught ESL in California and Vietnam, and worked as a Teaching Assistant and tutor in college, I've taught my share of good classes and boring ones. Didactic learning, we all know, is horrible for teaching and retaining material. Having a lecturer stand and speak in monotone about brain hemispheres to many students does very little to help them learn.

    While researching ESL teaching methods and curricula when starting an ESL school in SoCal (at which Xanghe helped), I listened to many audio seminars and read books advocating the benefits of including the student in the learning process. Having students repeat things, connect thoughts, work in groups, perform, and create projects, in addition to using audio, visual, and tactile stimuli together in unconventional ways (songs and poems, demonstrations, props to pass around class) always result in better student scores, and greater retention (not to mention my own opinion of a happier student body).

    Nevertheless, my school is stuck in didactic learning. Slowly medical schools around the country are integrating classes into a systems-based structure, but they grasp didactic learning like a cadaver's hand in rigor mortis grasps a broken tool. Systems-based (organ-based) learning melds the biochemistry, histology, pathology, etc. together in one class as the student learns about one organ system. This makes sense, since a bacterial infection of the liver will influence all of those things--in the liver or circulatory system--and not, in normal cases, your big toe.

    In addition, some professors are gifted at teaching and others aren't. It makes no sense to get the most knowledgeable person on the limbus system teaching it if he or she is dry as the Sahara desert, monotone, speaks incredibly slowly, and repeats his/herself. It is logical to take the second or third most knowledgeable person, who is a much better teacher, because the depth of material we need is not great (we're doctors not PhDs) and overall learning and retention will be much better. Any questions too deep for the lecturer can always be forwarded to the expert anyway.

    Medicine is an interesting profession, because it constantly stives for the new ... while stubbornly and stupidly holding on to the old
    So if you're thinking about medical school, study hard what schools teach what ways, and if possible, sit in on classes. I feel I have regressed back to the stone ages in learning material coming from Brigham Young University to my current school. At BYU, I was mostly in small group classes, with professors that encouraged alternative learning methods. Some of this was my astute choice of teachers and classes that fostered that, and some of it was BYU's emphasis on teaching. Not every class was that way, but the percentage was far higher than the 0% of my current institution. And although my grades aren't horrible, they have definitely decreased.

    Medicine is a fun and exciting field, and the prospect of helping people each day drew me to it. I encourage any who want to help people, and be compassionate, to go for it. But beware the lecturer...the almost extinct beast whose last bastion of strength is the medical school. He may bore you to death.

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