The Science of Teaching Science

During the Innovation Room of the Centre of Education and Learning on 11 November 2016, Friedo Dekker, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at LUMC, presented ways how teachers can improve science education.  This article contains a summary and video of his presentation.

The CanMEDS-framework describes the key competencies physicians require to effectively meet the health care needs of the people they serve. These competencies are organized under seven major roles of a physician: medical expert (the central role), communicator, collaborator, manager, health advocate, professional ánd scholar.

In the Netherlands, we have a national blueprint of medical education, which aims to make every student a good doctor, and some of them good researchers. For this reason, critical appraisal of existing literature and doing research projects is an important part of the curriculum.

Several factors could have an impact on the improvement of undergraduate science education:

  • active learning;
  • assigning small scale activities;
  • authentic assignments;
  • challenging and motivation the students.

However, Friedo Dekker's faculty has a limited amount of time, ECTS and teaching staff, and 300 medical students each year. How can teachers improve science education despite these issues?

Example 1

All first year medical students typically do an two-week internship at a nursing home in September. Dekker gave them an extra assignment: collect data on three selected patients and submit it to a webbased data entry system. In December, students were asked to go back to the nursing home and collect the same data. In January, the students were expected to present a research question based on the collected data, read a paper, present their work, solve their research question and do a short exam in a two-week course.  The result of this extra assignment was an increase in skills. Student perceptions also showed an increase in critical reflection, participation in research, motivation for research and familiarity with current research.

Example 2

Students were asked to look through six medical journals and found a total of 189 unique advertisements. Out of this batch, they selected all ads with a claim on effectiveness, and a reference to an RCT (Randomized Controlled Trial). Every student was asked to rate two advertisements and RCTs, submit the input into a data entry system and present it to the class. This resulted in a big dataset, which served as material for the students to analyze and formulate their own findings. Moreover, the course taught students that critical appraisal is important.

More information…