Not all medical schools are going completely lecture-free, but many are trending toward offering fewer lectures. “What this mostly refers to is a learning environment that is problem based with regard to disease, and small group versus large lecture-style format,” said Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, dean of the school of medicine, provost, and executive vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in Milwaukee. Dr. Kerschner is also professor of otolaryngology, microbiology, and immunology. MCW also has completely digitized their content so that students can access the materials both before and after class.
Explore this issue:January 2018
It is much more important to teach concepts and ways to continue to learn and access data than ever before. The old style of just lectures has less room to reinforce these concepts. Small group and problem-based learning is more conducive. —Joseph E. Kerschner, MD
In an active learning environment at MCW, said Dr. Kerschner, students might be presented with a patient who has head and neck cancer, learning the appropriate anatomy, cell and molecular biology, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and clinical correlates as they discuss this patient in a small group setting. “It’s a hands-on learning situation that is more memorable than passively receiving information,” said Dr. Kerschner.
The University of Kansas Medical Center’s new curriculum, Active, Competency-based, Excellence-directed (ACE), has changed the legacy curriculum of 15 lecture hours per week to only five lecture hours per week, with the goal of making learning more active and learner-centric. “Many transformed curricula like ours introduce students earlier to clinical areas, including subspecialties. This early exposure may identify students headed to otolaryngology who might have been lost otherwise,” said Robert Simari, MD, executive dean of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.
Twenty-five years ago, medical knowledge doubled about every five years, but currently, it’s doubling about every 100 days. “It’s no longer possible to teach everything we know in medicine to our medical students and residents without it being obsolete by the time they graduate,” said Dr. Kerschner. “Therefore, it is much more important to teach concepts and ways to continue to learn and access data than ever before. The old style of just lectures has less room to reinforce these concepts. Small group and problem-based learning is more conducive to this.”
The challenges to medical school students in lecture-free learning environments are not insignificant; students must be mature enough to take responsibility for their education and be prepared to participate actively in class. “There is no place to hide in these curricula,” said Dr. Simari.