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Lessons in learning

by Barb Boose No Comments

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Does interaction among students in different medical/health sciences disciplines foster their understanding and appreciation of their future health care colleagues?


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Do medical students who take anatomy and physical diagnosis courses at the same time better retain anatomical knowledge?


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Does student use of iPads and other technology in medical simulation activities enhance their acquisition and retention of knowledge?


A task force at DMU is encouraging explorations into these and other questions on effective teaching and learning. Made up of individuals from a variety of academic departments, the group seeks to assist faculty who are asking such questions in sharing their findings as documented research.

“Our goal is not to dictate what faculty should be engaged in, but more on how we can be an incubator in health education research,” says Craig Canby, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and a member of the Pedagogy in the Health Sciences Task Force. “We want to support what people are doing educationally that could translate into a research project.”

Investigating health sciences pedagogy – the theory and science of teaching – is a focus area of DMU’s research enterprise.

That can entail gaining approval from DMU’s institutional review board (IRB), which reviews biomedical and behavioral research involving humans, and collecting and evaluating data. An example of such a project at DMU is an effort to measure and evaluate the impact of interprofessional education (IPE): In 2011 and again in 2012, first-year students in six programs in the University’s three colleges participated in an IPE day, with small-group discussions on a multi-problem clinical case aimed at promoting collaboration among different professions in a patient-centered care process.

“We decided from the beginning we’d get IRB approval so we could survey students’ attitudes and knowledge before and after the program to evaluate their response,” says Teri Stumbo, Ph.D., M.S., P.T., associate dean of the College of Health Sciences, a Pedagogy Task Force member and immediate past chair of DMU’s IPE Committee. “Based on the results, we saw significant positive outcomes among students.”

The IPE day demonstrated to students that DMU faculty and administrators promote an interprofessional approach in health care. It also has sparked additional research.

“We know IPE day had a positive impact on students’ attitudes, but we don’t know if that carries into the clinic, so that is another project,” Stumbo says. “The IPE project had a quantitative focus, so we also have a small group looking at its qualitative effect.”

Investigating health sciences pedagogy – the theory and science of teaching – is a focus area of DMU’s research enterprise. Supporting faculty in such activities offers benefits beyond generating published papers and presentations.

“Because our faculty are focused on teaching, this is a great way to invite them into the arena of research and scholarship,” Canby says. “Fostering their success benefits them, but it also benefits the University because it enriches the effectiveness of our teaching.”

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