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Improving teaching in Medical Schools

Evidence from educational research has now shown that improving the knowledge base of medical teachers does not necessarily improve the knowledge base of students. Something more than knowledge of the subject is required. And that is the ability to teach well.

Training medical teachers: Training medical teachers to teach or, putting it another way, making pedagogy take on a more professional character in medical schools was a relatively new idea thirty years ago. That was the time the Medical Education Unit (MEU) was setup in the Peradeniya Medical School for the specific purpose of training medical teachers in educational science and in the art of teaching. As occurs with any innovation, there was initial resistance to this idea mainly from senior teachers who considered themselves to be good teachers. “ Good medical teachers are born and not made ” they said, with which we in the MEU agreed; but we went on to say that these “good teachers could be made even better by training them in educational science ”. Teachers who participated in the first few medical teacher training workshops began to realize that the main purpose of their profession was to help students learn rather than to throw knowledge at students in the form of lectures. Teachers started writing clear student learning objectives and rational alterations of the medical school curriculum emerged. The changes that followed these early teacher training workshops removed all doubts in the minds of the skeptics about the importance of training medical school teachers to teach and the concept of teacher training in medical schools took root. Today, we have teacher training figuring prominently in the University Grants

Commission’s strategies for university reform. In this context, it would be difficult not to acknowledge the seminal role of the Peradeniya Medical School in bringing about this change in university education whereby teacher training has become an important tool for improving educational standards in the universities of the country.

Teachers commitment to teach students: Training medical teachers in educational science does not automatically improve teaching in medical schools. Educational technology, like any other technology, is a series of educational manoeuvres that have been proven to be effective in improving student learning. But the manner in which this technology is applied is even more important. Teaching, as with treating the sick, is not a job but a vocation with strong emotional commitment because the focus is on the interests and well being of human beings other than one’s self. A teaching session should be of benefit to the student in as much as a patient - physician encounter should result in benefit to the patient. The sentiments that prevail when there is an emotional commitment to teaching were first captured in words during the first century A.D. by a Jewish priest Akiba Ben Joseph who drew the analogy of a mother feeding her young. Referring to his role as a teacher he said “My Son, more than the calf wishes to suck, does the cow yearn to suckle”.

Teaching desirable attitudes: Teachers in medical schools teach students three broad categories of human behaviour. They are knowledge, skills and attitudes; all three being interrelated. First,

Sri Lanka Journal of Medicine 2000; 9(1): 1 - 2
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