Empathic Education

When I was a college student, I took some memorable lecture classes. Though they could not address individual student concerns, the professors gave compelling lectures illustrated (in those days) with relevant slides and memorable anecdotes.

Lectures are an efficient way to communicate content. It’s a brain dump from the expert to the novice. But there is no way to ensure that the recipient of the material understands the core concepts or can implement them in novel ways. Increasingly, pedagogical theory has turned to more dynamic, learner-centered teaching.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece by Jeremy Rifkin that made me reflect on good teaching practices. He points out that the traditional system stifles collaboration–it’s considered cheating to work with others. Yet, studies have shown that when medical students work together, they diagnose patients more quickly and accurately.

If the goal of medical education is to train empathetic physicians, we should consider replacing lectures with small group projects that prepare students for the kind of work they will be doing as practicing doctors.

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