Farewell UWSOM

Dear Friends,

I am now in my last hour as Direc­tor of Cur­rcu­lum at UWSOM, and this is my final post. I know I haven’t posted in a long time, and I wish I had been able to keep up this blog a lit­tle more assid­u­ously. Things got busy in A300.….

Thank you all for your con­tri­bu­tions to the school of med­i­cine and to med­ical edu­ca­tion. As I move into my new role I just might begin to wrap my mind around all the things I’ve learned in the past cou­ple of years and how much I’ve gained from my time here. Thank you all for your patience as I learned, as I stum­bled, and as we worked together to improve our curriculum.

I have in var­i­ous posts included links to other blogs, arti­cles and video clips — not always with the best insight, it turns out.

I’d like to leave you with one that is maybe a lit­tle too sen­ti­men­tal, but oh well, it’s the New Year and I’m going to miss you all, so why not. It’s what we’re here for, after all, to spend a lit­tle time as teach­ers and as physi­cians, get­ting into the expe­ri­ences of our stu­dents and our patients, so that we can bet­ter serve them, and bet­ter learn and heal ourselves.

Keep in touch! I am eager to fol­low the progress of the new curriculum!

If we could see inside oth­ers’ hearts.

With regards and sign­ing off the Blog of Cur­ricu­lum Renewal (at least for now),


Active Learning Classrooms

This spring I was lucky to be a part of a fac­ulty pro­fes­sional learn­ing com­mu­nity (FPLC). Once a week I got to walk up cam­pus to Ode­gaard Library and spend an hour with other fac­ulty and staff from across the uni­ver­sity, to talk deeply about active learn­ing class­rooms. The impe­tus for this FPLC was the brand new pair of active learn­ing class­rooms that have been cre­ated as part of the remod­el­ing of Ode­gaard. Each week for spring quar­ter, one of us led the dis­cus­sion and focused on a dif­fer­ent aspect of teach­ing in an active learn­ing class­room — what is needed? How do we do it? What have we already exper­i­mented with? What are the suc­cesses and chal­lenges we’ve seen or expe­ri­enced our­selves? How will we use these new spaces in the library? We brought in exam­ples of les­son plans that could be adapted to the new spaces and offered each other tips on how to make them stronger. Once the rooms were nearly fin­ished, we got to tour them and do some pre­tend teach­ing using the equip­ment and prac­tic­ing being in the space.

The class­rooms are amaz­ing — they were designed and cre­ated specif­i­cally to enhance stu­dent learn­ing in small and large groups, using the most cur­rent tech­nol­ogy and allow­ing for flex­i­ble lead­er­ship among stu­dents and fac­ulty. The teacher is not tied to the front, stu­dents are arranged in tables of nine that can also be used as three sets of three, there are mon­i­tors all around and the per­son at the con­trols can tog­gle all sorts of con­fig­u­ra­tions of what is on the screens. There are glass boards at arm’s reach of each table for writ­ing, and alcove booths for even smaller groups of stu­dents to work together away from the main group.

One mem­ber of our FPLC will be teach­ing in the ALC this autumn quar­ter. He was at first unsure of how he would be able to make some of his mate­ri­als work for this space.  He teaches geog­ra­phy, and he uses actual maps that he hangs on the white board in a tra­di­tional class­room. Once he saw the room take shape his imag­i­na­tion got started and together our group brain­stormed some ways for him to adapt what he does plus try some new approaches.  He real­ized that he could actu­ally allow stu­dents to work in smaller groups on the maps if he fig­ured out how to project them — and then came up with sev­eral ways to try that, while still hav­ing the phys­i­cal maps up on one of the walls. He plans to take it slowly and not hold every ses­sion in the ALC for the first quar­ter. Mak­ing this shift means changes in his les­son plans and some of his mate­ri­als, so doing it all at once is a huge endeavor.

Even if you don’t have access to the ALCs in Ode­gaard, you can start slowly, make a few changes, and brain­storm some new approaches. There are lots of resources avail­able to help make your les­son plans more active. Some are on the Ode­gaard ALC web site linked above. Some you can get from me if you let me know. In A-300 we are here to help — for the UW SOM fac­ulty in Seat­tle and across WWAMI, let me know if there is any­thing I can do to sup­port your efforts to pro­mote active learn­ing in your classroom.

Sharing learning on learning


Last week I was for­tu­nate to attend a Teach­ing and Learn­ing Sym­po­sium that was held in the (beau­ti­ful new) HUB on cam­pus. The sym­po­sium was a poster ses­sion of research that UW fac­ulty have con­ducted on teach­ing and learn­ing in their class­rooms. There was also a brief panel ses­sion where four fac­ulty described their efforts to incor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy into their teach­ing in inno­v­a­tive ways. It was so much fun to walk around and lis­ten to all the chat­ter about stu­dents, assump­tions about learn­ing, dis­cov­er­ies about teach­ing, and what it meant to do research in the classroom.

Since most of you, I think, were not able to attend this sym­po­sium I am delighted to share with you the link to this report pro­duced by the UW provost on learn­ing. Take a look — you can see all the fas­ci­nat­ing ways that UW fac­ulty are engag­ing in evidence-based teach­ing and find some resources for more infor­ma­tion at the end.

If you’re a fac­ulty mem­ber at UWSOM and some of these things appeal to you — let me know and we can talk about how we in cur­ricu­lum can help you get started. Look closely at this report — you can find our own Robert Steiner there! Enjoy -

Putting Learn­ing First


Musings from a former PTA president

Yes, I was PTA pres­i­dent for two years at my kids’ ele­men­tary school and for one year at the mid­dle school. I was also on the board of the preschool, worked as “yard duty” for a year, and taught and vol­un­teered in the class­room. All before I earned a PhD in edu­ca­tion. Which is a way of say­ing that I’ve seen edu­ca­tion from a lot of angles — and I’ve heard a lot from par­ents who want the best edu­ca­tion for their kids. If you have kids you prob­a­bly know exactly what that means to you. What I’ve seen is that par­ents want deep, enrich­ing expe­ri­ences with teach­ers who know their child and care about their child’s progress. They want their kid sur­rounded by other kids who are eager to learn so that together they can all grow. They appre­ci­ate it when teach­ers pro­vide com­plex, struc­tured learn­ing expe­ri­ences that build on one another. They want to know that the teach­ers have planned thought­fully crafted lessons with plenty of vari­ety of activ­i­ties. If they think their child should be in the gifted pro­gram, they want those things even more. Smart kids, par­ents say, should be chal­lenged to think deeply, not just mem­o­rize rote infor­ma­tion or fill out work­sheets, sit­ting still all day and lis­ten­ing to a teacher talk from the front of the class­room. Smart kids should be up and about, doing, think­ing, exper­i­ment­ing, cre­at­ing, prac­tic­ing work­ing in teams.

What’s inter­est­ing to me is how dif­fer­ent that  is from what our stu­dents some­times expe­ri­ence in med­ical school. Peo­ple who choose to become physi­cians are some of the smartest, most engaged and eager stu­dents in the entire uni­verse of learn­ers, yet we some­times pro­vide them a learn­ing envi­ron­ment that all my fel­low PTA par­ents would squak like crazy over if it were the stan­dard for their kids. We ask our stu­dents to sit in lec­ture halls for hours at a time and absorb masses of facts with lit­tle oppor­tu­nity to syn­the­size, ana­lyze and cre­ate new ideas.

I am not sug­gest­ing that there is no need to learn facts. Remem­ber the phon­ics vs. whole lan­guage bat­tle about read­ing instruc­tion back in the 1970s? Or how about the cur­rent “math wars” in which par­ents and school dis­tricts are argu­ing about learn­ing rote math facts vs. stu­dents dis­cov­er­ing how for­mu­las work in a more organic way? To me those are incred­i­bly stu­pid argu­ments because we need BOTH the facts and the crit­i­cal think­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Think of it this way: the more words you know, the bet­ter sen­tences you can make, right? So more facts (words) leads to more higher order think­ing (com­plex sen­tences with lots of vari­ety). Facts are needed.

BUT — if no one ever helps you learn to cre­ate those com­plex sen­tences then it doesn’t mat­ter how many words you actu­ally know. Like in logic: nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient. Facts are nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient to higher order think­ing. You still need prac­tice with using the facts and con­struct­ing ideas and syn­the­siz­ing and eval­u­at­ing and all that…with super­vi­sion and sup­port from some­one who can shape your efforts and pro­vide feed­back about how you’re doing (say, a teacher!).

When our stu­dents are sub­jected only to fact-learning they, and we, are miss­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to help them cre­ate com­plex med­ical sen­tences. When we talk about encour­ag­ing our fac­ulty to “flip” their classes and pro­vide more time for work­ing on those com­plex sen­tences, we are not ask­ing them to aban­don facts and the learn­ing of facts. How­ever, we ARE ask­ing fac­ulty to care­fully con­sider which facts are most impor­tant and what is the best pro­por­tion of time spent on facts vs. com­plex think­ing prac­tice. There is a lim­ited amount of time to use, and we need to use it wisely for both facts and higher order skills.

Back to K12 edu­ca­tion — peo­ple with high school stu­dents in Seat­tle may be aware that Nathan Hale High School is a mem­ber of the Coali­tion of Essen­tial Schools. CES is a group started by Ted Sizer, one of the great thinkers in Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion in the 20th cen­tury. CES schools believe in “depth not breadth” and have 10 prin­ci­ples that guide their edu­ca­tional endeav­ors. They are, learn­ing to use one’s mind well; depth over cov­er­age; goals apply to all stu­dents; per­son­al­iza­tion; student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach; demon­stra­tion of mas­tery; a tone of decency and trust; com­mit­ment to the entire school; resources ded­i­cated to teach­ing and learn­ing; and democ­racy and equity. I have to say, if my future physi­cian could be edu­cated with those prin­ci­ples I would be very happy to know I had a hand in mak­ing it hap­pen. My PTA days are over, but I’m eager to help UWSOM be the kind of school my fel­low PTA par­ents would have wanted for their kids — some of whom are now med­ical students.

Curriculum renewal and genome sequencing…which is harder?

A friend shared this post with me today and I wanted to pass it along to you. Dr. Fran­cis Collins is the direc­tor of the NIH — and I learned from this inter­view that he went to high school in Vir­ginia just down the road from my own home town.

The arti­cle is about genomic sequenc­ing and analy­sis, and is in inter­view for­mat. Dr. Collins answers one ques­tion about med­ical edu­ca­tion, and here’s what I thought you might find interesting:

“Dr. Reed: The impor­tance of tak­ing a good fam­ily his­tory is some­thing that you and I and every other med­ical stu­dent learned about in med­ical school. What do you think, in a genomic era, the med­ical school of the future will look like?

Dr. Collins: I wish I could pre­dict. I know it shouldn’t look like what it is now, and I know how hard it is to change med­ical school cur­ric­ula. When I was a med­ical school pro­fes­sor in Ann Arbor a few years ago, I often scratched my head about how dif­fi­cult chang­ing just 1 hour of the cur­ricu­lum could be, because there were all of these entrenched views about what the cur­ricu­lum should look like. At one point, I think I said it was eas­ier to sequence the human genome than to change an hour of med­ical school train­ing, and it’s still a chal­lenge to do that.

There are some med­ical schools, though, that have taken this on in a pretty thought­ful, cre­ative way and tried to build med­ical school edu­ca­tion around a holis­tic view of how biol­ogy works from the genome all the way up to the whole organ­ism and to the envi­ron­ment, instead of hav­ing things pigeon­holed by discipline.”

And WE are on our way to being one of those med­ical schools that are tak­ing on the cur­ricu­lum in a thought­ful, cre­ative way!




Pearls for small group teaching

Bruce Sil­ver­stein is the course chair for our GI course, which runs in April for our sec­ond year stu­dents. Bruce runs the course entirely in small groups, with almost no large lec­tures. Each day of the course (there are about 10 course ses­sions over three weeks) Bruce meets in the morn­ing with all the small group lead­ers for what he calls “skull ses­sions.” In the skull ses­sions, the fac­ulty dis­cuss the day’s les­son and chal­lenge each other to remain cur­rent on the lat­est research and clin­i­cal approaches to the mate­r­ial. Then in the after­noon, they meet with the stu­dents. Stu­dents are expected to pre­pare ahead of time using a care­fully out­lined and anno­tated syl­labus that pro­vides foun­da­tional infor­ma­tion. At the start of each ses­sion, in the large lec­ture hall, stu­dents meet a patient and lis­ten to a very short (five minute) pre­sen­ta­tion. Then they move to their small group rooms and spend the next cou­ple of hours dis­cussing the day’s mate­r­ial. Bruce has been refin­ing the Gut course for many years, and has devel­oped some “pearls” for small group teaching.

Pearl #1: What mat­ters is what you learn, not what you know.

  • The most impor­tant thing to get the stu­dent to believe.  Make it safe to learn. They will not be pun­ished for not know­ing.  We are not born with knowl­edge, we all learn it.

Pearl #2: Make it intimate.

  • In an inti­mate learn­ing envi­ron­ment you become approach­able. Use a horse-shoe or chevron seat­ing pat­tern so you can walk around, and use name-cards so you can learn their names quickly.

Pearl #3: Stu­dents must pre­pare beforehand.

  • Encour­age prepa­ra­tion by pick­ing on stu­dents who are not pre­pared in a soft, fun way.

Pearl #4: Keep things in small bites.

  • Take the mate­r­ial for the ses­sion and divide it up into small, some­what self-contained bites. This allows you to keep things mov­ing and go bite to bite.

Pearl #5: Incentives.

  • Incen­tives make a dif­fer­ence. Food is a good moti­va­tor — and works for the GI expe­ri­ence. Stu­dents who answer ques­tions get a cookie or a small food treat.

Pearl #6: Con­tent must be relevant.

  • This is cru­cial. If they don’t under­stand why they will think they are wast­ing their time. Clin­i­cal exam­ples of rel­e­vance are the best — they want to think of them­selves as physicians. 

Pearl #7: Don’t lecture.

  • This is the kiss of death.  Stu­dents are mov­ing away from in-person lec­tures. If you lec­ture there is no point in hav­ing a small group. If you lec­ture you could just do a podcast.

Pearl #8: Change the pace q 5 minutes.

  • Change exer­cises, cases.  Keep it mov­ing.  Today atten­tion spans are shorter. Stu­dents are used to every­thing in small bites.

Pearl #9: Skull ses­sions = consistency.

  • Gut Course instruc­tors meet every day for 1.5 hours to review the mate­r­ial and I teach them how to teach it. This means every stu­dent gets the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence in any small group.

Pearl #10: Take breaks.

  • When to take breaks? When things start drag­ging, when you need a break, when you come to an impasse.  Breaks are a good way to reset where you were. But — only 5 min­utes, and guard the treats!

Pearl #11: Ref­er­ence patients you’ve seen.

  • Stu­dents really want to be tak­ing care of patients.  It’s why went into med­i­cine.  Any rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence is wel­come.  Ask ques­tions about what would they do with a sim­i­lar case.

Pearl #12: Make it FUN!

  • Learn­ing should be fun.  Think of what­ever you can — con­tests, game shows, any­thing that is out of the norm.  Don’t worry about not being pro­fes­sional.  I once did a total pro­fes­sional talk as a Jeopardy-type exer­cise.  It was hard to do but it worked.

Pearl #13: Socratic is best.

  • Never answer the ques­tion but ask another ques­tion that leads the stu­dents to an answer.

Pearl #14: Enthu­si­asm sells!

  • Excite­ment is infec­tious.  Show you care and have energy for what you are teaching.

Pearl #15: Noth­ing beats praise.

  • Stu­dents spend a lot of time feel­ing under the gun — offer­ing praise for the think­ing they are doing is easy and goes a long way to keep­ing them moti­vated and involved.

Pearl #16: 90 sec­ond rule.

  • Don’t stay on a stu­dent for longer than 90 sec­onds.  Too much time on an indi­vid­ual can cause them to get more flus­tered or con­fused.  Allow the stu­dent to get a con­sult from a class­mate, or call on some­one else.

Pearl #17: Never embar­rass a student.

  • Never. And if you hap­pen to do so by acci­dent, apol­o­gize later.

Pearl #18: Review and reinforce.

  • Some­times it takes hear­ing some­thing 5 times to ensure it sticks.

Pearl #19: If you are hoarse you talked too much.

  • This some­times hap­pens with fac­ulty who are new to lead­ing small groups!

Pearl #20: Here is they key to small group teach­ing: make the stu­dents do the work!

Active Learning meets Universal Design

Any­one already know what uni­ver­sal design is? [pause while stu­dents con­sider this]

If you don’t already know, and you had to guess, what would you guess? [take a minute to brain­storm with a neighbor]

What did you come up with? [offer a few stu­dents a chance to state their ideas]

Well, if you were think­ing about ways to make things acces­si­ble to a wide range of users, you are on the right track. Uni­ver­sal design (UD) is a set of prin­ci­ples that encour­ages the cre­ation of objects, tools, spaces, really any­thing — includ­ing teach­ing mate­ri­als — in ways that make them effec­tively usable to the widest range of peo­ple. There are seven prin­ci­ples, and they are:

  1. Equi­table use.
  2. Flex­i­bil­ity in Use.
  3. Sim­ple and intu­itive.
  4. Per­cep­ti­ble infor­ma­tion.
  5. Tol­er­ance for error.
  6. Low phys­i­cal effort.
  7. Size and space for approach and use.

Con­sid­er­ing the prin­ci­ples of UD as you develop your teach­ing mate­ri­als means that you are con­tribut­ing to equi­table access for all stu­dents, unde­ni­ably a pos­i­tive thing to do. So how does that con­nect to active learning?

In an active learn­ing class­room stu­dents take on some of the work, rather than sit­ting there pas­sively, wait­ing for it all to be over. Learn­ing becomes a shared expe­ri­ence between the instruc­tor and the stu­dents. Pow­er­Points that are chock full of infor­ma­tion do not offer much room for stu­dents to do any think­ing. All the infor­ma­tion is there in front of them and they sit pas­sively while the pre­sen­ter does all the think­ing. It’s even more paci­fy­ing if the pre­sen­ter then reads the slides!

Devel­op­ing UD Pow­er­Point slides not only pro­vides for equi­table access, but it sets you up for cre­at­ing an active learn­ing envi­ron­ment, just by being thought­ful about how much you put into each slide. Since I arrived in the world of med­ical edu­ca­tion from the K-12 world I have learned that doc­tors value hav­ing a LOT of slides in a pre­sen­ta­tion. I’ve heard one doc­tor, in prepar­ing for a talk, say, “But I only have 40 slides done for my 60 minute talk!” I’ve also seen Pow­er­Point decks for 60 minute classes that were 120 slides long. It’s as if hav­ing more infor­ma­tion on more slides is the only way to prove you know what you’re talk­ing about.

Instead, think of your slides as prompts for con­ver­sa­tions, as ways to illu­mi­nate the most dif­fi­cult aspect of an idea, not as your own notes or as stor­age for all pos­si­ble infor­ma­tion you could con­vey on a topic. Your learn­ers will still rec­og­nize that you know what you’re talk­ing about because you will prompt them to think deeply and guide them down the right path, so that they too know what you know.

Good slides that pro­mote UD and active learn­ing have many fea­tures in common:

  1. Use a clear font such as Ariel or Times
  2. Main­tain high value con­trast, for exam­ple black type on a plain white background
  3. Avoid fly-ins and dissolves
  4. Con­vey one idea per slide
  5. Include only what you need to prompt your­self and the learn­ers (you can print out your own notes to use to do your presentation)
  6. If you use fig­ures, keep them sim­ple and focus on the most impor­tant information

You can learn more about UD, and read descrip­tors for the seven prin­ci­ples, at the DO-IT  cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Washington.

Here’s a good resource for think­ing about effec­tive Pow­er­Point. It’s called Really Bad Pow­er­Point (and how to avoid it).

Marco Rolandi of the UW (Dept of Mate­ri­als Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing) has an excel­lent arti­cle on design­ing fig­ures for pre­sen­ta­tions. Rolandi, Marco, Karen Cheng and Sarah Perez-Kriz. 2011. A brief guide to design­ing effec­tive fig­ures for the sci­en­tific paper. Adv. Mater. 23: 4343–4346.  You’ll need a UW log in to reach the paper.

If you are inter­ested in try­ing this — if you’d like to pare down your slides to increase UD and active learn­ing, but you’re con­cerned about how to go about it — how to think about what to leave in and what to take out…give me a call! I’d be happy to help or to point you to other resources. We can start small — one pre­sen­ta­tion maybe. See how it goes. I’ll be wait­ing to hear from you!

Are you “so busted?”

Did you see the arti­cle in the Seat­tle Times this week about Wash­ing­ton col­lege fac­ulty flip­ping the cur­ricu­lum? Our own Scott Free­man (who pre­sented at our school of med­i­cine fac­ulty retreat last June) com­ments in the arti­cle that he was “so busted” by a stu­dent who told him he wasn’t doing enough to help her learn.

What about you?  Are you doing enough to help your stu­dents learn? How do you know? Note that Free­man con­sis­tently earned “great reviews” from his stu­dents — so how well your stu­dents like you as a lec­turer isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a good mea­sure of how well you are reach­ing them. You could be the best lec­turer ever and still your stu­dents might not be learn­ing as much as they could.

There is evi­dence that active learn­ing works, and even evi­dence specif­i­cally in STEM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics). Check out the arti­cle by Joel Michael from Rush Med­ical Col­lege to see an analy­sis of some research. Med stu­dents are sharp and ded­i­cated, so they are going to wring all the learn­ing they can out of any­thing we present to them, but even so, we have an oblig­a­tion (and an honor, I believe) to pro­vide our stu­dents with the best learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties we can.

When I was a grad stu­dent one of my men­tor pro­fes­sors talked to me about pro­fes­sional humil­ity. He said it was the recog­ni­tion that as smart and as ded­i­cated a researcher as I might even­tu­ally become, I would only con­tribute a drop in the bucket of human knowl­edge and under­stand­ing. To have pro­fes­sional humil­ity was to rec­og­nize that my exper­tise would only take me so far, and to value the con­tri­bu­tions of oth­ers too. Scott Free­man demon­strated pro­fes­sional humil­ity when, in spite of pos­i­tive stu­dent feed­back and years of expe­ri­ence teach­ing a lec­ture for­mat, he acknowl­edged his own lim­i­ta­tions and tried a new approach.

Are you “so busted?” Are you will­ing to try another approach?

Michael, Joel. Where’s the evi­dence that active learn­ing works? Adv Phys­iol Educ 30:159–167. 2006. doi:10.1152/advan.00053.2006.

New year, new quarter, new changes in teaching and learning

Greet­ings! It has been a few weeks since the last post — Thanks­giv­ing and other events inter­ven­ing. The end of autumn quar­ter is fast approach­ing, and win­ter quar­ter will begin in the new year.

Here in A300 we have started a new activ­ity called the “WYN” meet­ing (WYN stands for What You Need). The WYN team con­sists of staff from Cur­ricu­lum and Aca­d­e­mic and Learn­ing Tech­nolo­gies (ALT). We have been arrang­ing to meet with the course chairs in the weeks before the start of the quar­ter to hear about any changes planned for the course and find out what each chair needs to effec­tively deliver the course. We also let the chairs know what’s going on in cur­ricu­lum and tech­nol­ogy and how we can sup­port their work.

So far we’ve met with two course chairs ahead of win­ter quar­ter, and learned about some won­der­ful changes they have planned. One chair, after notic­ing that a lec­ture she was at was pretty darn dull, has decided to over­haul the way she presents some of the infor­ma­tion in her course, “flip­ping” some parts of her cur­ricu­lum. Now, stu­dents will have read­ing to do out­side of class and spend more of their course time in small groups work­ing on prob­lems related to the prepa­ra­tion — rather than lis­ten­ing to all of the con­tent deliv­ered in a lecture.

The other chair we’ve met with has plans to pare down his syl­labus, con­tin­u­ally refin­ing what is the most impor­tant infor­ma­tion for stu­dents to focus on, and includ­ing bul­let points. He also plans to add more audi­ence response ques­tions to his lec­tures, and pro­vide for­ma­tive feed­back oppor­tu­ni­ties at the begin­ning of small groups.

Today we heard an excel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion by Geoff Nor­man, of McMas­ter Uni­ver­sity, who spoke about cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy. One of his key points was the impor­tance to learn­ing of trans­fer — the way we apply infor­ma­tion or under­stand­ing from one con­text to another. Nor­man argues that this is one of the most impor­tant ele­ments of learn­ing and requires a lot of prac­tice yet one of the least empha­sized in class. It strikes me that some of the changes that our course chairs are mak­ing increase the oppor­tu­ni­ties to prac­tice trans­fer by free­ing up time in small groups to work through prob­lems and see “deep struc­tures” — the ele­ments that actu­ally transfer.

I look for­ward to meet­ing with more course chairs and hear­ing about their plans for their courses. Stu­dents — keep your eyes open for oppor­tu­ni­ties to prac­tice trans­fer — and plan to prep more out­side of class so you can look for deep struc­tures as you work through prob­lems in your small groups!

Effective Interactive Techniques for Lectures

I just got off the phone with a fac­ulty mem­ber.  He was talk­ing about ways to make his lec­tures more engag­ing, and he men­tioned being at a CME lec­ture recently and how bor­ing and dull it was. He pointed out that in a tra­di­tional lec­ture, it’s the pre­sen­ter who is hav­ing all the fun, think­ing and being engaged, but the audi­ence just sits there. We remem­ber bet­ter and more eas­ily when we are engaged and think­ing — and if it doesn’t hap­pen dur­ing the lec­ture then we have to go home and redo it later to pre­pare for assess­ments. Why not find ways to help stu­dents learn more deeply DURING class time?

Here at UWSOM we are work­ing to sup­port our fac­ulty who want to do that. Whether you’re inter­ested in doing Khan Acad­emy style “nuggets” and using class time for cases, projects or problem-solving, or if you just want some tips on how to make large group lec­tures more engag­ing, we can help.

In fact, there is a work­shop com­ing up in a few weeks that you might be inter­ested in. Here is the infor­ma­tion from the flyer:

Low-Risk and High-Tech Approaches to Mak­ing Your Lec­tures More Interactive

Tues­day, Decem­ber 11, 2012

8:30 a.m. to Noon

 Are you inter­ested in learn­ing effec­tive inter­ac­tive lec­tur­ing tech­niques that will engage learn­ers and opti­mally stim­u­late learn­ing? This work­shop is designed to intro­duce par­tic­i­pants to a vari­ety of easy to imple­ment “low-risk, high-yield” strate­gies to increase inter­ac­tiv­ity and learn­ing in large-group, “lec­ture” type set­tings. The work­shop will also present sev­eral technology-enabled meth­ods that can be used dur­ing large-group ses­sions to prompt learn­ers to apply their knowl­edge of the subject.

 Objec­tives for Work­shop Exercises

 After this ses­sion par­tic­i­pants will:

  • Describe sev­eral low-risk, high impact inter­ac­tive teaching/learning strate­gies to incor­po­rate into lecture-type teach­ing sessions.
  • Describe tech­nolo­gies that can assist in mak­ing learn­ers more active par­tic­i­pants dur­ing large-group sessions
  • Select a strat­egy to imple­ment and out­line plans for incor­po­rat­ing these strate­gies into a recently pre­sented or planned lec­ture or series of lec­tures con­sis­tent with objectives.
  • Iden­tify 2–3 data mark­ers that would inform the eval­u­a­tion of strategy’s success.


Michael Cam­pion, MEd & Lynne Robins, PhD

 All work­shops are free to all Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton School of Med­i­cine fac­ulty and Health Sci­ences fac­ulty mem­bers.  Enroll­ment in each work­shop is lim­ited, and reg­is­tra­tion is required. TO REGISTER please visit Catalyst:


If you are an eli­gi­ble fac­ulty mem­ber please con­sider attending!