In the 2020-21 academic year, the College of Medicine medical education team faced a daunting task: implementing a new curriculum that integrated active learning course sessions (a model called peer instruction) with increased time for students to learn on their own. This endeavor would have been challenging in an average year. With the Covid-19 pandemic thrown in, the obstacles increased tenfold.
Active learning sessions, intended to engage students and faculty in an in-person setting, had to be reimagined for a virtual learning environment. And the entire team – from faculty to curriculum operations staff – stepped up to make a go of it.
“Despite the challenges of 2020, the College of Medicine faculty and staff did an amazing job of delivering an integrated, interdisciplinary and professionally relevant curriculum that significantly reduced class time and that engaged faculty and student in an active and adaptable learning,” said Cynthia Ledford, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education.
Now, for the 2021-22 academic year, all M1 students will be on campus for in-person peer instruction (PI), and through new peer-instruction sessions in M2, physician faculty members and students will come together as students learn more about disease and treatment.
Reflecting on the past year
Arthur Coulton, Ph.D., associate professor of integrative medical sciences and module director for Human Composition and for cardiology, pulmonary and renal systems courses, reflected on the many positive aspects of PI that he observed last year: "A classroom filled with energized students; direct faculty-student interaction, effective student interaction; students that took ownership of their own learning; and active learning that promoted better student progression and success in board-style exams.”
He added, “This year, I look forward to 100% face-to-face peer instruction, with more than 160 students in the same classroom. I look forward to building on last year's success and further developing peer instruction best practices in partnership with our students."
Class of 2025
Feng Dong, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences and module director for Flora, Pathogens and Defense, also implemented peer instruction in his course in the 2020-21 year. This new teaching modality was challenging for both students and faculty, he said.
Dr. Dong said that in the spirit of continuous improvement, faculty and staff used the valuable feedback obtained from students last year to make significant changes for this year’s M1 class, such as reducing the number of faculty members who teach (for more consistency), changing the order of some sessions, and making changes to the reading assignments for PI.
Launching the M2 Curriculum
While this will be the second year for peer instruction in the M1 curriculum, it will be the first time for it to be integrated into the M2 curriculum.
Peer instruction in the M2 course Diagnosis and Treatment has been led by module dyad leaders Doug Moses, M.D., clinical associate professor of pediatrics and June Yun, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences. As in the M1 curriculum, the new M2 model devotes a single clinical day each week to skills and knowledge in areas such as medical interviewing, medical examinations, and bioethics. Peer instruction teaching will be used during the remaining four classroom days.
Student and faculty feedback received from the M1 year was vital in shaping peer instruction for the M2 curriculum. In particular, much care has been taken to limit peer instruction to three hours per day on most days, and no more than 10 hours per week.
There are other changes, too.
Traditionally at NEOMED, M2 was constructed as systems-based modules. Courses are taught by clinicians, pharmacologists, pathologists and radiologists. For the new academic year, peer instruction will be added.
Recognizing the success of prior M2 curricula in which a knowledge delivery model provided the basis for interactive case sessions, the faculty worked to preserve independent study time. Lectures are made available on videos so that students can watch them on demand, allowing them more flexibility in their study schedules. Adding the peer-instruction question format provides students with additional opportunities to apply knowledge in a format consistent with upcoming licensure exams.
Finally, as a complement to the peer-instruction model, interactive case discussions have been preserved in many modules, allowing for the authentic clinical application of material. Supplemented by the help of clinical faculty, these sessions allow students to use the material in a case-based format, building on their knowledge for an excellent review of test material to come.
To learn more about peer instruction and other changes to the curriculum for academic year 2021-22, please join College curriculum leadership for their Curriculum Launch Open House at 1 p.m. Aug. 16.
-Submitted by Jennifer Lint, M.Ed., M.P.A., director of Communications and Administration for the College of Medicine