The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning

When I first heard the expression SoTL, I hadn’t thought that much about the meta-analysis of teaching. Back in those days “and learning” didn’t always follow “teaching”. That’s meant that both figuratively and literally, of course, both then and now. It’s always a challenge to know how well students are learning from the teaching they receive. Trying to understand the process and improve upon the outcomes is a worthy scholarly activity. The thoughts represented here are far-ranging, but represent my “think aloud” phase of engagement with SoTL. Please see the Portfolio link for examples of some of my projects with medical learners: Mary Johnson’s Pathbrite Portfolio


The “New” Teaching Paradigm – Personalized Learning

There is much angst out there among educators about technology “taking over” the process of teaching, moving traditional teachers out of the way and replacing them with “something new”. Deja vu. Advances in technology have engendered apprehension since time out of mind!

  • Plato tells us in Phaedrus that Socrates was upset over the increasing availability of books. He was concerned that reading and writing would compromise a student’s learning by decreasing their dependance upon their own memory as a learning tool!
  • Another pivotal moment in education came when textbooks were first published in the late 19th century.  That technology threatened some teachers because books contained the information that they had mastered and had prepared to convey to their charges.  If students could learn in a “self-teaching” format from textbooks, it would decrease the need for instructors and displace their role in the classroom!

Although these objections sound astonishing and shortsighted now, current concerns about adaptive learning technology for personalized education may seem just as absurd in the future.  Good educators have always personalized learning for their students, trying out different strategies to teach their students when the standard format wasn’t working for them. Advances in education technology, including adaptive learning methodologies, can help teachers provide personalized instruction.  There is widespread acknowledgment that computer-enhanced learning is very effective for some types of learning, increasing student engagement and providing the “time-on-task” that equates with deliberate practice.  Adaptive learning technology promises a more efficient and effective way to improve learning outcomes for individual students. 

Much has been written about the role of the teacher as “a guide on the side”.  That role will never be diminished as students use adaptive learning programs, circle back to check in with the mentor, making sure that they stay on track with their efforts.  Students could collect their badges of accomplishment from this beloved guide, turning around to dive in again, with their approving teacher gazing in appreciation at the tool that has helped keep them on task.

MOOCs and Medical Education

MOOC-based learning is one of my current areas of interest! So far, I’ve taken my MOOC courses through the Coursera platform: “Gamification of Learning” from Penn State’s Wharton Business School and “Clinical Problem Solving” from Catharine Lucey, MD who is Vice-Dean for Education at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine. Both were great, intensive treatments of the topic area, and highly useful in my work (ie, I learned a TON). My newest course, just starting next week, is called “Creativity, Innovation and Change”, another Coursera offering through Penn State University.

Here at DMU, we started a conversation about MOOCs at the COM retreat in June. In the Osteopathic world, didactics during the clinical phase of the curriculum are not consistently offered in all disciplines, particularly in Year 4, when students are more free to choose diverse elective rotations. A MOOC that could bring together students from different backgrounds and physical locations with faculty from across the country would be fantastic! Of course, the devil is always in the details, but offering an elective built on this model may be a great way to give students credit for a novel educational opportunity. And, DMU might be a leader in this modality, if we get a jump on the competition. Considering how engaged our students already have become in the electives curriculum, content delivery via MOOC may be a natural extension of course opportunities for our students.