Training, Context and Flexibility – an interview of a clinician-educator

This interview involved Dr C, who is a maternal fetal medicine specialist, located at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. She is also an associate professor of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Alberta. She has been teaching for 14 years. She teaches a variety of learners from undergraduate students, to postgraduate residents, ultrasound technicians and students. She does large lectures at the university, but also does a lot of small group teaching and bedside teaching. This interview was conducted on May 31, 2017 at 4:30 in the maternal fetal medicine clinic. The three key concepts that arose during our interview was Training, Context and Flexibility

Training
Dr C felt that one of the greatest barriers to integrating technology into her teaching practice is training. She states that she is “interested in trying to keep up to date with technology and have been trying to be an enthusiastic adaptor” but at the same time comments that she is a bit of a “luddite”. She identified time as well as geography as a barrier to training. “I’m a very busy clinical and the patient practice sometimes makes it difficult to coordinate time to learn some of the new technologies that we could use for teaching and learning”. Her clinic is also geographically separated from the university, which is where all of the faculty development activities occur. She seems to feel disadvantaged compared to clinicians located at the University Hospital in this regard. She also states that being a “cyber immigrant” makes it more time consuming for her to grasp some concepts and learn to use technology in the classroom.

Context
When discussing the use of technology and whether it was useful to enhance learning, she really felt that this dependent on the context. In a small group discussion or with bedside teaching, she feels that students are engaged regardless of technology and that technology did not enhance learning in this setting. But in a large group session, she finds students are less willing to be interactive without some form of technology that facilitates this.

Flexibility
We discussed her goals when she is integrating technology into her teaching, she stated that her main goal was “to make it interesting and in a format that the learners are more used to learning from”. She thought it was important to be able to present information visually and audibly. She felt that vodcasts allowed students to learn and review concepts at their own pace. It seemed that flexibility and accessibility for students was an important component to her teaching and she felt that students demanded this. I initially labeled this student-centred but changed it to flexibility, as the material that is taught is still knowledge centred or teacher-centred.

My reflections on the interview
My interview with Dr C further solidified by opinion that medical education is slow to change compared to K-12, and large class sizes adds an added dimension of challenge. Dr C identified a few challenges but I don’t think it’s unique to just her. I think many clinician-educators have difficulty due to time constraints and their other responsibilities such as patient care, administration etc. Financial limitations may also contribute. Many physicians are paid fee for service, and the educational component in many cases is done for free. Though this system is likely to change in the future, for now it seems that education is not as valued as services provided to patients. There needs to be a cultural change where innovation in education is as valuable to the university as research and services provided to patients. Only then will we see pedagogical changes within medical education.

2 comments

  1. I enjoyed the reflection on flexibility with differing approaches to learn and present similar content. This helps personalize instruction to individual learning preferences, and provides opportunities for students to exercise creativity.

    Andrew

  2. I enjoyed your interview and it is always interesting to see technology being used in other areas outside of education. I like the fact that there was still similarities to the K-12 system. My interviewee also commented on the time commitment feeling like a tech rookie or in your case a cyber immigrant. It was also interesting that both interviewees thought that flexibility in important. I wonder if there is something to be said for some cross problem solving between fields to help us all navigate the successful, and authentic integration of technology into our respective fields. Thanks for challenging my thinking on the best way to move forward with this goal.

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