The Power of Community Learning: Meshing Rural/Underserved Experiences with a Research Requirement in a Regional Medical Education Program

Atul Gawande, in his recent New Yorker article titled “Slow Ideas,” describes how changes in health care can be difficult to implement quickly, even if the research is credible and the change could lead to profound improvements. Gawande reminds us that social process is critical to the acceptance of new ideas, and he encourages health and medical educators to help their students learn social and community awareness.

The University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM) serves as a medical school for five states – Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WWAMI). Begun in the early 1970s, the WWAMI medical education program strives to continually improve the environment for student learning even as it has expanded to serve more students in response to regional needs. One of WWAMI’s many innovations was to join with Area Health Education Centers across the five states to offer students transitioning from the first to the second year of medical school a four-week immersion experience with practicing physicians who were providing care for rural and/or underserved populations. The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) proved very popular, and each summer 30-50% of rising second year medical students chose to participate. Other students, however, chose to spend the summer between first and second year working on an eight-credit research requirement, the Independent Investigative Inquiry (III). To allow more students to participate in R/UOP, an approach was designed that integrated the research requirement into the R/UOP experience. The result is the R/UOP III.

Studying and Designing for Transfer of Learning

Educational systems are grounded in the assumption that students will use what they learn in future contexts, whether those contexts are future classrooms, future workplace settings, or future community or civic activities. General education curricula in the United States (sometimes called General Studies programs) often are built on the premise that students will apply what they learn from courses across the arts and sciences to act as informed citizens and to be more well-rounded in their careers. Within disciplines, coursework often is structured hierarchically so that subsequent courses allow students to build on prior learning. Yet what do we know about how students use prior knowledge, how can we study this transfer of learning, and how might we design our courses to facilitate successful transfer?

CEL Seminar on Mentoring Undergraduate Research: Call for Applications

Elon University is pleased to announce the 2014-2016 Center for Engaged Learning Seminar on Mentoring Undergraduate Research, a two-year research seminar that supports individuals interested in pursuing research that advances excellence in mentoring undergraduate research. We invite interested scholars from across the disciplines to submit applications to join a cohort of researchers collaborating on the study of evidenced-based, high-quality undergraduate research mentoring practices in diverse academic ecologies.

Student-Faculty Partnerships to Study Teaching and Learning

Many of the good practices faculty use to gather insights from students, such as asking for mid-semester feedback, are helpful, but they typically do not lead to authentic partnership between students and faculty. In most of these cases, faculty frame the questions, students provide answers, and then faculty alone decide whether, and how, to use to that information. This process often resembles a customer-service relationship. How satisfied are you with the teaching in this course? What do you like best, and least, about the class?

Partnership, on the other hand, is a collaborative, reciprocal process. In a partnership, all participants have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully, although not necessarily in the same ways.

Applying Scrum Project Management to SoTL Research

For the last five years, I have been researching and adapting Agile management philosophies and one specific framework, Scrum, to (1) better teach students to collaborate and manage their project work and (2) visually manage my own research projects studying student collaboration.

Agile is an umbrella term for a set of principles and practices that promote planned incremental progress toward larger goals by highly reflective cross-functional teams who self-organize their work. Agile frameworks are grounded in and call for respect for individuals, a team mentality, and accountability to each other and their collective goals.

Because Scrum values careful task articulation and visualization of work, it offers not only a way to improve student learning but also to collect data about that learning in action.

How Do We Support Faculty to Develop as Mentors of Undergraduate Research?

Undergraduate research is well established as a high-impact practice. It helps students participate in knowledge creation, transition to the workplace, and develop their ability to think critically (Johnson, 2006). Faculty who mentor undergraduate research report benefits related to teaching, career productivity, and renewed energy (Noe et al., 2002). The student and faculty benefits of participating in a mentored undergraduate research program coalesce for institutions leading to increased faculty retention, enhanced alumni loyalty, and overall institutional commitment (Clark et al., 2000). However, with the growth of mentored undergraduate research at the disciplinary and the institutional levels, the demand for faculty mentors has also grown resulting in added complexity to faculty expectations. Despite extensive research on the practice’s value to students, faculty and institutions, there is still much to learn about mentoring undergraduate research and the most effective ways to support faculty in their development of mentoring skills and abilities.

Using Standardized Patients in Healthcare Education

When you visit a healthcare practitioner, you put your well-being, and sometimes even your life, in their hands, and you rely on them to be both skilled and compassionate. The education process that brings healthcare professionals to this level of ability relies on effective opportunities for students to practice their skills along the way.

A particularly valuable means of engaging students in these interactions is through the use of standardized patients (SPs). Standardized patients are members of the community who are educated to portray real patients within a staged health setting. In Elon University’s School of Health Sciences, SPs work with students in both physical therapy (PT) and physician assistant (PA) studies to bring their education to life.

Mentoring Undergraduate Research: Student and Faculty Participation in Communities of Practice

George Kuh (2008) identified undergraduate research (UR) as a high-impact educational practice, one that has the potential to deepen students’ learning, strengthen self-awareness and broaden perspective-taking abilities, among many other benefits. Working closely with a faculty mentor is one of the defining characteristics of an undergraduate research experience (Lopatto, 2003), and faculty mentors are expected to guide students through the research process and be invested in the results or products (Osborne & Karukstis, 2009). Mentors often fulfill a psychosocial function as well (Johnson, 2006). Although mentoring is assumed to be a crucial component of successful student outcomes, surprisingly little empirical research has focused on mentoring in the context of UR.

Here are highlights of what we do know…

New Research Expands What We Know about How To Use Writing To Enhance Student Learning

Educators have long appreciated the power of writing to enhance learning. In the United States and Canada, this knowledge has underwritten the forty-year growth of writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) and writing-in-the-discipline (WID) programs. More recently, it has supported the expansion of writing-for-academic-purposes programs in Europe and elsewhere.

Results of a new study will reorient the focus of these programs and inspire new ways of using writing to advance the goals of higher education.

What Would a Focus on Learning Outcomes Do to Legal Education?

A lot has been written lately about the state of legal education, from applications to jobs and to what lies in between. By “between,” I mean the meaty center of the sandwich, the nature of the education itself. This post comments on that sandwich stuffing. In particular, what would happen if the proposed American Bar Association (ABA) Standard 302, Learning Outcomes, is adopted?
The current Standard is titled, “Curriculum,” and focuses on curricular content. The proposed standard provides a philosophical shift to revolve around learning outcomes. The new standard has the potential to be transformational.