Curriculum Redesign

Faculty, students embrace pilot projects that enhance learning

The Geisel School of Medicine's reputation for providing an outstanding educational experience within a close-knit community is one of the many reasons aspiring doctors choose Geisel.

That being said, the school's traditional curriculum needed to be modified in order to better reflect the rapidly evolving and complex environment of medicine, new evidence in effective medical education practices, and emerging standards for medical education from regulatory bodies such as the Liaison Committee for Medical Education.

Redesigning a curriculum isn't easy—it requires an enormous commitment from everyone involved. But Geisel School of Medicine faculty, staff and students are investing the time in this multi-year project with one overriding goal: bring medical education at Geisel to a new and standard-setting level that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

"The curriculum redesign builds on the extensive existing strengths of the Geisel School of Medicine in preparing graduates to provide both world-class care for patients and effective healthcare leadership," says Tim Lahey, MD, professor of medicine and leader of the curriculum redesign effort.

A first draft of the framework was submitted this spring to the Geisel faculty for review and feedback.

Curriculum redesign began two years ago when Dean Wiley "Chip" Souba, M.D., Sc.D., M.B.A., inspired by the school's distinguished reputation, challenged faculty to develop a curriculum to meet the goals of the Geisel School of Medicine's 2020 Plan for Excellence—educating physicians, scientists and teachers to be leaders of change in creating a healthier, better world.

According to Lahey, the key priorities of the redesign are to:
• promote lifelong learning and critical thinking;
• integrate clinical and foundational sciences better across the four-year curriculum;
• provide enhanced exposure to longitudinal and outpatient training;
• give students enhanced opportunities in healthcare discovery, leadership and scholarship; and
• improve student learning in major longitudinal themes such as ethics, humanities, professionalism and practice resilience.

"This exciting and complex challenge of developing a new and innovative curriculum gives Geisel an opportunity to integrate educational technology in ways that support the curricular goals and maximize student achievement," notes Glenda Shoop, M.Ed., Ph.D, director of curriculum design and assessment.

Pilot projects allow faculty and students to test, integrate emerging educational technologies

A parallel pilot project, launched with the Class of 2016, gave iPads to all first-year students and to 45 first-year faculty members who volunteered for the pilot. Geisel is the first and only school to provide iPads to faculty—an innovative move that's being closely watched by the tech community to see where it leads.

Virginia Lyons, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy, says that while there was a learning curve, nearly all of the anatomy and physiology faculty have incorporated iPads into their teaching—flipping classes and using apps to enhance learning.

In her Human Anatomy & Embryology class, Lyons uses BaiBoard, a collaborative electronic whiteboard that enables students to draw nerve maps and create flow-charts of limb development, which are used in class discussions. And Visible Body, an interactive 3D visualization of human anatomy that allows students to observe muscle movement and other body systems.

"We also use the iPad for response polling," Lyons adds. "Students respond to questions using their iPads giving us a poll of their answers, letting us know whether to either explain the concept again, or to move on."

According to first-year medical student Aaron Steen, an interesting result of the pilot is the opportunity for student and faculty collaboration. "I think tech-savvy students have been good about identifying iPad-friendly didactic resources and then sharing them with faculty and classmates," he says. "This is how Dr. Lyons and I came up with the idea of creating a comprehensive iBook for anatomy."

But for other students, there was a steeper learning curve.

"On my first day of class, with iPad in hand, I decided I was not going to be an iPad-using student," says Shelsey Weinstein, a first-year medical student. "I was used to taking notes with a pencil, but it wasn't long into a lecture on 'Organelles' that I realized the professor was talking too fast and I couldn't keep up—I was forced to take out my iPad."

Eight months later Weinstein is a convert.

"The iPad has revolutionized my organization of class materials and note taking," she says. "Using the iAnnotate app, I'm able to open lecture slides in a PDF format and, with a keyboard case that links to my iPad through Bluetooth, I can type notes, and mark up the PDFs."

Students like the iPad's organizational capability and flexibility, and while some use it more than others, they're all able to master more material on their own, giving them more time to hone their skills in classes, labs and clinical experiences.

"This pilot laid the groundwork for an educational technology infrastructure that supports the redesigned curriculum for both teaching and learning," says Leslie Fall, M.D., professor of pediatrics and associate dean for faculty development, who initiated the pilot. "It also allows faculty to be creative and innovative."

Fall uses Coach's Eye, a video analysis app designed as a coaching aid to improve team performance, to video students in On Doctoring while they're taking patient histories and performing exams.

"It allows me to immediately show students how they are doing," she notes. "We analyze the video in slow motion and then highlight problem areas."

For those concerned that technology is replacing the strong social connections and the rich supportive environment that's a hallmark of the Geisel School of Medicine—no worries.

"The effective use of technology supports the 'exquisite moment' that happens during teacher-led discussions," Fall reassures. "Blended learning is the goal."

Ultimately, we want our students to be excited about learning, to be invigorated and to be happy with a good state of mind, Richard Simons, M.D., senior associate dean of medical education says. "Our hope is that they will leave Geisel School of Medicine with the competency and confidence they need to be leaders in whatever they do."

--Susan Green

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