The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced a new grant program. Winning faculty will receive $25,000 to design a new course that addresses an “enduring question.” Examples include: “Are there human universals?” “What is the relationship between humans and the natural world?”
Although the grants are limited to undergraduate courses, they offer a compelling framework for approaching graduate medical education. Too often we begin teaching–whether in a classroom or at the bedside–with the idea of covering material. That is, we treat interactions with students as an opportunity to convey information.
The problem with the “brain dump” is that students may not comprehend or retain much of the material. Starting with the end goal ensures that the teacher is engaging students’ critical thinking skills and not just their memorization skills. A powerful end goal is one of the overarching questions of the discipline.