Monday, January 17, 2011

A letter from a UPCM alumnus to incoming U.P. President Pascual on less Antiquated Teaching Methods

Editor's note: The following email was sent to us on January 16 by Dr. Leonardo Leonidas, a member of the U.P. Medical Society in America (UPMASA) with the request that we upload this for the possible consideration of the incoming U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual. We are also posting this on the Facebook page entitled, Messages to new U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual at: 
Dr. Leonidas may be reached for comment at:

To the New UP President Mr. Alfredo E. Pascual,

Changing Old Teaching Method
One day last February at one in the afternoon, I attended a lecture at UPCM, BSLR room, 42 years after my graduation. The topic was muscle diseases. The professor I think was in the mid 40s. 
Except for the use of Power Point, the format of the talk was similar to my experience when I was student. It was a “show-and-tell” one-way talk with the professor doing all the action. 
The lecture was just as boring and sleep inducing like we had years ago. I was sitting in the front first row. I looked back to my right and noticed that some of the students are bored and sleepy. During our time, I remembered I also felt sleepy in many of the lectures at the same lecture room. 
After about half an hour of the talk, I left the room because I did not see any new teaching method from the professor that I can adopt.
I am Leonardo Leonidas, UPCM class 68 graduate, Assistant Clinical Professor in Pediatrics (till 2008), Tufts University School of Medicine. Boston. For about 30 years I mentored third year medical students. My role was to teach and demonstrate to how to diagnose, do physical examination, and treat patients.
I think the problem of our University is we have antiquated method of teaching which was designed during the industrial age. Our teaching methods are  experienced base, rather than “Evidence Based Education” like the new wave in medical education’s “Evidenced Based Medicine.”
I think the teaching model of most Professors is “One-Size-Fit-All” one-way lectures. They have different mind-set that strongly believe they should teach the Net Generation Student Learners the same way they learned.  
However, the Net Gen Student Learners grew up in a digital world of the 21st Century with a different mind-set who gets sleepy easily with a boring one-way lecture even though they are using Power Point.
Our student of the 21st century prefers to discover for themselves the solutions to a problem. They are more comfortable searching for the answer rather than Professor lecturing to them subjects that they are not interested with at that particular time.
The Net Gen Students are better in collaborating with other students or teachers. They learn better creating their own learning environment using technology and less of the paper-based note-taking, reading heavy hard copy books.
However, if our University is not offering tools and opportunities for collaboration, just-in-time learning, rapid on-line 24/7 libraries, these students will be bored and stressed on graduation. I think these are the student when they become professionals might be prone to early burn-out, reduced productivity, depression, and probably prone to corruption at the workplace.
How can we help the 21st century Learners?
We should change our methods of teaching. We should make it Student-Centric and Fun. And these are the features of newer teaching method:
    Instead of Professors lecturing, they should interact with students and help them discover for themselves.
    Instead of delivering a “One-Size-Fits-All” form of lecture, Professors should customize learning module to fit the student’s way of learning and studying.
    Instead of isolating the students to work alone, the Professor should encourage them to collaborate with other students, teachers, business managers, and researchers.
    Instead of teaching them what to learn, Professors should teach them how to think for themselves and do extensive research to solve a particular problem at hand.
    Instead of loading their power point slides with words, they should put more cartoons, pictures, and videos to illustrate the main idea. The brain learn and remember more visually.
   Instead of being serious in their demeanor, Professors should smile more, make frequent eye-contact with some students, give one-liner jokes, or show magic to make the amygdala pay attention. 
   Instead of forgetting the names of their students,
teachers should request their student’s e mail, so communication and teaching will be easier and fun. With a group e mail, teachers can follow up their students and make outcome studies of their methods. Updates of their lecture can be distributed with a click of the mouse. Armed with e mails, teachers can easily hook up a student with researchers and future contacts for employment.
I suggest that the first step for UP to help to the Net Gen Learner is to make all of the lectures available in a Website, a Blog from each Professor, group e mail, Facebook, or an Apple App. Professor should have a recorded audio or video of their lectures available 24/7 wireless.
I think one of the best tool that helped my students is the e mail. With this tool, I created cases of typical patients for them to solve within a few days. I requested students to analyze the case then send me their diagnosis. The response and comments were positive. And my Tufts medical students enjoyed it. 
From that experience, about five years before I retired, I invited some third year students from UP College of medicine for an e mail discussion on selected pediatric patients. About 20 of them was in my e mail group. One of them e mailed me saying that he learned more from our long-distance discussion than his six-weeks of rotation at the Pediatric Department of PGH. This student later on was accepted at Johns Hopkins Training program and now a Fellow at Mayo Clinic.
I also created a website that my students can visit to look for differential diagnosis in diseases of children. Instead of my students going to a textbook to look for the many causes of headache, fever, abdominal pain, etc., they just visit my website and with a few click of the mouse, they have at least 20 causes of whatever chief complaint of a patient they are dealing with.
Students will not be required to attend lectures, but will be required to learn in small groups and collaborate with other students or researchers. Instead of taking multiple-choice examinations for their “grades”, students should have a portfolio of their work that can help the community.
Since paper based text-books are often at least three to five years late, there will less hard-copy books but more e-books for technical, biological, health, and sciences. 
However, we should design an outcome-based learning environment. Before one student can go to the next level, he or she should demonstrate that the teaching module is well ingrained in their brain and attitude. That they can remember and apply the principles in their daily life or environment.
The goal of a Student-Centric education is founded on Evidence Based Medicine "Just-in-Time" to be used to solve the current problem.
Lastly, I think all student should have a mandatory course on how the brain works, remember, and decide based on the pre-frontal cortex, not on the amygdala, the emotional center. They should also know the latest research on how to motivate ourselves and others based on the research of Harry Harlow and Edward Deci.
This 21st Century Education is now possible and the University of the Philippines should be the first Institution to morph into it.
The University of the Philippine has already selected its next President. I suggest the next one use Evidence Based Teaching methods and create a master’s degree program about how the brain works as applied to teaching.
Leonardo Leonidas, MD
Parent’s Diagnostic Aid (Apple App Store)
Assistant Clinical Professor in Pediatrics
Tufts University (Retired)
Outstanding Alumnus, UPMASA, 2010
Teacher of the Year, UPMASA, 2006
Distinguished Career In Teaching Award from Tufts University's Class 2009 Award Ceremony on May 13, 2009 at Parker House Hotel, Boston.

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