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Five Scholars, One Week, and a Winning Team Project

Meeting for the first time at a Harvard Macy Institute course in early fall, two Geisel faculty with a shared interest in learning how to leverage the Web and social media to create learning networks, came together as part of a collegial think tank dedicated to harnessing new perspectives in practicing medicine and educating medical students.

Justin Mowchun, MD, an assistant professor of neurology, and David Mullins, PhD, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, who is also an assistant professor in Geisel’s new medical education department, were part of a five-scholar team tasked with developing a learning module using digital technologies.

Each of the eight teams had one week to chose a topic from one of five areas: quality improvement, procedural skills instruction, health professions ethics, patient safety, or information technology education/instruction. The Geisel team’s completed project included the integration of several digital technologies, embedded assessments, and a means of evaluating the module, which could be implemented into a medical education program.

“I brought up the idea of creating a focused faculty development module to support a learner centered approach of feedback to medical students after direct patient observation,” Mowchun says.

“We embraced Justin’s idea and the team generated a course module designed to teach medical school faculty the art of providing timely and useful critical feedback to students and residents,” Mullins adds.

Working quickly, the team began designing the project by together creating a storyboard for “Mastering the Art of Trainee Feedback Using the Ask-Tell-Ask Framework.” Once the storyboard was complete, individual team members were responsible for creating specific content.

Mullins created the introductory video, while Mowchun and his fellow scholars worked on case examples videos that supported learning the feedback framework. “We also developed learning objectives, an online polling exercise for learners to stimulate recall of what they already knew about feedback, a few embedded questions for assessment, a brief reflection exercise to promote deeper learning, and an infographic that faculty could download as a quick reminder of the student-centered feedback approach,” he explains.

At week’s end, all of the various team projects were presented to the Harvard Macy faculty and course scholars who provided critical feedback, then rated and scored the projects using a defined rubric. “We were fortunate to achieve the highest rating in the course,” Mullins says.

The 10-minute interactive online learning module can also be used in the preclinical and graduate medical education setting, Mullins notes. “Our neurology clerkship has recently piloted and implemented changes to our system by doing more frequent direct observations and feedback with medical students,” says Mowchun, who is also the neurology clerkship director. “And this module could also be helpful with our clinical faculty.”

Mullins says the team project allowed a diverse group of faculty and scholars from around the world to work together. A sentiment echoed by Mowchun: “It also was a good opportunity for two people from different backgrounds and roles at Geisel to learn, collaborate, and innovate together—winning the competition was a nice finish to the week. Every one was pretty tired by the end.”

But the team project was only part of the intensive experience.

“We were tasked with creating an individual project, as well,” Mullins says. “Individual projects were also presented to Harvard Macy faculty and scholars from around the world for review. We received immediate critical feedback over the course of a week, which led to several rounds of critique, review, and revision, though these projects were not judged or scored.”

Mullins developed a team-based learning activity using the polio vaccine as a case study—live and inactivated vaccines each have different properties and consequences. In Mullins’ project, students learn about the basic science of polio and the vaccines, the biological and medical differences of the two vaccines, the socio-economic and cultural issues surrounding vaccine, and perspectives on the importance, relevance, and potential complications of vaccine from both a local and world health perspective.

The project represents a small iterative step toward a more comprehensive and integrated curriculum for our medical students. In the future, we’ll apply this model to other topics."

- David Mullins

Part of this project will be implemented in Geisel’s immunology and virology course this year with full implementation, including vertical integration with other courses such as Patients and Populations and the second-year infectious diseases course, in 2017.

“The project represents a small iterative step toward a more comprehensive and integrated curriculum for our medical students,” Mullins says. “In the future, we’ll apply this model to other topics.”

He also cites the value of being connected with a large community of medical education scholars and thought leaders. “I’ve remained in close contact with many of my course colleagues through a variety of social media applications, and next year Geisel will host a seminar and workshop on the cutting-edge research and application of “spaced learning” to improve memory retention and recall ability developed by Dr. Price Kerfoot, an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School,” Mullins adds. “We’ll be incorporating his approach in medical immunology/virology and medical microbiology as a means for better preparing our medical students for future courses and board exams.”

For Mowchun, the weeklong course was a great opportunity to be immersed in medical education. “Most of the scholars are clinicians and basic scientists from around the world who are trying to navigate the complex and dynamic world of medical education,” he says, “and I think these courses help support personal growth as well as innovation at our home institutions.”