I do not suspect that my philosophy on education is any different than those who have come before me and may not be different from those who will follow me. The general principles are the same: 1) Provide an environment that is conducive to learning. This must be complemented by the educator's ability to deliver the information and to adapt their method of delivering material that enhances the student's learning. 2) Allow the student to take risks and experiment with their knowledge - exploring their creativity once the information has been taught. 3) Give the student the ability to express his or her own thoughts and ideas - supporting their creativity. These are the principles I live by in my role as an educator.
During my PhD studies in Education, I became aware of the difference between a student-centered vs teacher-centered approach to learning. As adult educators, I believe our challenges are to facilitate learning through active engagement of the student and incorporation of adult learning principles (andragogy) and cognitive psychology's findings of learning into a dynamic classroom environment.
Learning is an active process and a personal experience. My goal is to inspire and engage learners to find their path to a mutually desirable outcome. A good teacher creates memorable key components to clarify concepts and promote a progression toward comprehension and mastery. The experienced educator uses storytelling to elicit an affective response that motivates students to not just invest in the learning process, but to own it.
My educational philosophy is quite simple.
As a clinician, I fully subscribe to the concept that one cannot practice clinical medicine without a strong background in the basic sciences. As such, my educational efforts often challenge the student to link new and challenging clinical scenarios with often forgotten and neglected basic science principles. While this may be stressful for the learner, I feel that only by linking these valuable building blocks can one become a well rounded and well read clinician. I must admit that I believe that some degree of "tension" should exist in the learning process, specifically inspiring students to want to be "the smartest person in the room." By providing this role model I hope to mimic the excellent training I received during my time at this medical school and hopefully inspire students to practice the best medicine possible.
My philosophy of teaching and learning reflects my belief that education is optimized when it is student centered, dynamic, and highly interactive. It is similar to my philosophy of patient care that puts the patient (student) first, is participatory in nature (active learning), focuses on meaningful shared goals (learning objectives), and works to promote self efficacy (student affinity and ability for lifelong learning). I embrace formative feedback to identify "gaps" in didactic content knowledge, psychomotor skills, and communication skills, essential for success in health care.
Medical Education is an active process. Too often, we've resorted to traditional, century old ways of lecturing and talking at our learners in hopes that they will somehow absorb the knowledge necessary to become good clinicians. As suggested in a recent New England Journal Perspective "Lecture Halls without Lectures - A Proposal for Medical Education" we need to "make lessons 'stickier' (more comprehensible and memorable)." I believe the use of Simulations in medical school is a leading teaching modality of choice for such a reason. I have made it a principle educational philosophy in my role as a medical educator to design curriculum and clinical courses that will be both memorable and 'stick' with my learners.
The foundation of my teaching philosophy is to create a learning environment where all students, no matter their learning style, can maximize their learning potential and feel safe and comfortable doing so. This means addressing the class in a professional manner, being clear about my expectations, welcoming questions from students, being accessible outside of class to provide additional help to students who request it, and guiding students in how to be active learners.
My educational scholarship has been mostly directed towards medical student and resident education. I am especially interested in applying new technologies (internet, simulation) to the educational process for these learner groups. More specifically, I have created combined web- and simulation-based curricula for incoming PGY I residents and developed a simulation curriculum based on TeamSTEPPS for graduating medical students with interest in surgery.
My reason to participate within the Academy is to share my expertise and experiences with other Academy members, but also to use my background to the benefit of the teaching faculty at Upstate at large. Having performed educational research studies and received some grant funding for these endeavors I would like to continue my scholarly activities in this area and feel that the Academy is a great venue to do so.
The greatest gift I can give is to help a student learn to learn and actively apply what they've learned through critically thinking and problem solving. Other essential components of my philosophy of teaching are to: Respect my students, for the people they are, for their differences, for what they already know and for their capacity to learn; Have high expectations of them, and believe they can do it, even if they don't believe it themselves; Know when to support and when to push; Be a role model for the behaviors you expect; Be reflective on performance and encourage reflection to facilitate change; Stay current; and Aim for personal excellence, but maintain humility.
Professional and graduate students require a focused curriculum to meet the demands of their degree programs, and yet every student has a unique mixture of knowledge that affects their ability to learn complex material. Thus I use an approach in the classroom that builds trust between me and the students, enabling me to recognize points where they need more background or examples of concepts. My goals are to incorporate active learning exercises into didactic lectures, encourage students to voice their uncertainties, identify the students' individual needs, and give them the skills for success in their fields.
Tenets of my teaching philosophy include the following:
1. Course materials and activities must be coherent and relevant to clinical practice. Objectives, activities, assignments, and assessments should be clearly described and linked to expected student outcomes. Linkages between, and across, didactic and clinical courses should be explicit.
2. Principles of adult learning and activities that require different learning styles should be incorporated across the curriculum to support learner engagement and motivation. Students should be held accountable for their learning and teachers should model the outcomes that they anticipate the students will perform/achieve/demonstrate.
3. Authentic learning experiences should be provided across the curriculum to ensure achievement of requisite performance competencies in knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
4. Students should be provided with ongoing formative/summative assessment and feedback opportunities including 360 degree evaluations (from clinical/academic faculty, peers, patients and standardized patients) to promote the identification of learners' strengths and areas that need to be developed.
5. Self-assessment and reflection are requisite for deep learning and personal meaning-making.
Over the course of last twelve years since I have been on faculty at Upstate Medical University, my approach to education has gradually shifted from an emphasis on "my teaching" to a more central focus on student "learning". Teaching allows me to fulfill what I believe is one of the fundamental responsibilities of physicians practicing in academia; training the doctors of the future. The ability to help students and residents understand key concepts that would help them throughout their medical career is priceless.
Learning requires deep understanding that comes only when students internalize and actively apply knowledge over a period of time. I believe that a teacher's role is to help, guide, and motivate students so that they get interested in the process of learning. I believe most students will rise to the challenge when quality work is demanded of them if they are also helped to develop the skills necessary to make that possible. As a teacher I feel students are served best when they are engaged in a rigorous curriculum. As someone who was not born and raised in this country I strongly value the diversity of learning styles and the unique perspectives that we all, faculty and students bring to the classroom. I strive to provide an environment where students feel comfortable in expressing their opinions. As my discipline grows and matures, I am constantly striving to meet the challenge of passing that knowledge on to my students in a meaningful way.
I strive to create a safe learning environment where students can feel free to voice opinions as they learn new information. I believe that educators need to connect with students and engage them in the learning process. Being prepared for each teaching encounter and evaluating one's teaching effectiveness is essential for becoming an excellent educator.