The humble art of great teaching

How does a medical resident become a good teacher?

Photo: VCU Marketing

Clint Thurber, an internal-medicine resident at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, was trying to give a brief presentation on different types of IV fluids to an audience of two interns and a medical student.

Things were not going well.

One of the interns was clearly interested, but the other appeared distracted, and impatiently interrupted Thurber. Could he cut to the chase? Could he just tell them the key points they needed to know? Meanwhile, however, the medical student seemed lost and unable to follow Thurber’s presentation. What was that term you used? Could you repeat that? Can you explain that?

Finally, Reena Hemrajani, H’10, stepped in. Associate program director for the internal medicine residency, on this day she was taking the role of facilitator in a two-day workshop on the art of effective teaching. The workshop participants were all second-year internal medicine residents, and the scenario that had just unfolded was a scripted role-play. The interaction was specifically designed to present the kinds of challenges and frustrations residents are likely to encounter in an actual teaching situation.

“How did it feel to be in the role of teacher?” asked Hemrajani.

“I think,” reflected Thurber, “that we often overshoot the knowledge base of our students.”

Hemrajani, who is an assistant professor in internal medicine, confirmed his idea. “The hardest part of teaching is remembering what they don’t know.”

During the workshop, roleplaying scenarios are videotaped so residents can analyze the challenges and frustrations that occur in actual teaching situation. They also get a chance to try simple behaviors for creating a more effective learning climate, giving feedback and organizing their teaching.  Read more

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