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Am I Teaching What I’m Supposed To Teach?

Whether you’re a new faculty member or have been teaching for years, it’s important to identify how you contribute to student success within your curriculum. That, of course, is easier said than done. With so many moving parts in a health sciences curriculum, it is difficult to know where your expertise can be applied to best benefit your students. On a basic level, teaching can seem fairly simple when we think of it as sharing our knowledge. You’re a content matter expert in your field, you can talk about it for days. However, when we flip our focus to students and their needs, teaching suddenly isn’t as clear and straightforward. How do we know if we’re teaching the content we’re supposed to teach? Let’s find out.

Teaching the appropriate content

To those outside of health sciences education, this can seem like a silly concern to have. Teachers innately know what to teach, right? Of course, it isn’t that easy. Knowing the content, and knowing which content students need to learn, are two completely separate tasks. It takes a well-oiled curriculum, built on an organized spine of content and communication between faculty, to ensure that we teach what students need to learn. With that being said, it’s important not to fall into these ever-so-popular teaching traps when creating your content:

Teaching to your interests

This can easily happen for newer faculty when not given the appropriate guidelines on what to teach within your curriculum. Let’s face it, you’re a content expert in a given field because you value and enjoy it. It makes sense you want to talk about certain topics that you deem important - there’s nothing to fault there. Unfortunately, it may not be what the students need to help them advance in their academic and professional journeys. It’s vital to communicate with other faculty members on what they are teaching on similar and supporting subjects. This allows us to have a better idea on the specific content we need in our lessons for the benefit of our students. Additionally, having an understanding of what students need to know in preparation for their licensure exams is paramount in this process. More on that later...

Teaching what you were taught

One of the more logical methods of building content for your course(s) is to teach what you were taught while you were completing a similar degree. While your time as a student can be valuable in recalling which content to teach, it’s important to remember that curricular requirements are rapidly changing in health sciences education. These changes include the program’s curriculum, the make-up of licensure exams, and even accreditation standards. This means the information you learned as a student may be considered outdated or less relevant than it once was. This is another reason why mapping your curriculum is so important: continuous evaluation and updating of content is of the utmost importance to help stay current and avoid this pitfall.

Teaching what your mentor and/or predecessor taught

Whether you’re new to teaching or have been teaching for decades, having the materials and advice of a more experienced teacher can create a path for building your content. Unfortunately, this can also cause outdated materials to be passed down to current students. While the validity of the content may not change over time, the relevance does as our curricula evolve. In fact, according to results from an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recent survey, 84% of medical schools have either gone through a curricular change the last three years, are in the middle of a change now, or are in the planning phase for an upcoming curricular change. (See chart below)

Content is always changing in health sciences education, and we need to change along with it to stay current. Avoiding the use of dated content becomes a much easier task when faculty communicate effectively with each other about what is being taught in each course. Because health sciences programs tend to have so many team-taught courses, this can be a nearly impossible task without the use of a mapping program like DaVinci Education’s Leo. Streamlining communication through the use of your curriculum mapping program is a necessity in the ever-changing landscape of health sciences education.  

Not evaluating your content each year

We’ve talked a lot about the on-going change in health sciences curricula. These changes necessitate the need for frequent evaluation and updating of our content. The first step in this process is to evaluate your content each year to make sure it effectively meets students’ learning needs. Not to mention, we always want to make sure we don’t have gaps or redundancies in our content. As your peers change content in their courses, this has likely caused scenarios where faculty inadvertently omit vital information from the curriculum. Luckily, there’s a solution for this issue and all the others mentioned above!

We all need help with curriculum management in our health sciences programs. The stakes are too high for our students and their future patients. We must ensure we’re teaching the appropriate content to help our students achieve their goals. Curriculum mapping tools also need to support our schools in ways that go beyond simply mapping for accreditation visits. We need a platform that enables continuous curricular evaluation to inspire actionable decision-making each semester. Fortunately, Leo is the platform that can help. It helps ensure you and your fellow faculty are avoiding common teaching missteps by delivering content that puts your students in the best position to succeed. That way, you will never have to ponder, “Am I teaching what I’m supposed to teach?” ever again.   

Association of American Medical Colleges. Curriculum Change in US Medical Schools: Implementation of Change in 2017-2018. AAMC Curriculum Inventory, 2017-2018. https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/cir/427196/27.html. Accessed 9/10/2019.