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rofessor Teresa Pawliksowska joined RCSI in
June 2013 to direct the new Health Professions
Education Centre (HPEC). She outlines for RCSI
Matters some of the Centre's successes and
innovations in its first 18 months.
Among its many roles, HPEC facilitates best practice in
teaching and learning; provides a resource for curriculum
development; and has introduced Technology Enhanced
Learning (TEL). Professor Pawlikowska explains why the
HPEC was established: "The HPEC was established to
professionalise teaching and learning at RCSI, across the
schools and across the multinational sites. In times gone by,
there was the view that an excellent clinician would be an
excellent teacher and that students, having spent sufficient
time with the clinician, would absorb their knowledge.
"It is increasingly recognised that the knowledge base
has expanded beyond all recognition, students have less
and less time with clinicians, clinicians have less time, and
patients now spend a lot less time in hospital, as compared
to before."
Much more thought had to be applied to supporting
faculty staff in their teaching, and students in their learning,
according to Professor Pawliksowska. This support came in
the form of increased research into, and understanding of,
education and how people learn in general. Additionally, TEL
was introduced to complement existing teaching methods.
"If you do anything centred around a patient with a student,
the student learns that is high-quality learning. So, TEL is
definitely not about usurping that."
Experiential learning is HPEC's focus, but TEL makes sense
in an age when students have a strong understanding of
technology. TEL is a joint venture between the HPEC and
IT department at RCSI, and a number of pilot projects are
ongoing, including one focused on communication and
consultation skills. "It is no longer enough for doctors to
have extensive knowledge and expertise, they also have to
be able to communicate well with their patients, and with
their peers, in all sorts of environments."
RCSI's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology are
involved in the communication and consultation skills
project. "It is important that things don't go wrong in these
areas because it can be quite emotional, but if they do go
wrong, we looked at that and the variety of communication
and consultation skills necessary in those circumstances. And
we are going to model that in TEL simulation roleplay. So,
before students ever get to consult with a patient, they will
know what they are doing in the communications sense."
Other TEL projects include: delivering information
about immunology in a more engaging manner using
TEL such as multiple choice questions and quizzes; and
the development of an App for microbiology teaching.
A significant achievement for the HPEC has been the
establishment and commencement of an NUI-approved
Diploma in Health Professions Education, which launched
in September 2014. This Diploma is run by HPEC for
faculty staff who teach. The first year is a pilot year with 22
students, comprising new and experienced staff from right
across the faculty, taking part.
Another achievement has been the introduction of
peer observation teaching. "The dissemination of peer
observation of teaching, when there hadn't been any,
has also been an achievement. Feedback is probably the
most important thing you can do to to change someone's
behaviour, so if you have someone concentrating on you,
and you get feedback, that can be quite productive."
The HPEC has two ways in which it aids curriculum
development. One method involves the Teaching and
Learning Committee which looks at curricula issues that
people have, through the cross-sectional representation on
that committee. It is a forum, but it facilitates debate, and
expertise is fed into that.
Secondly, Professor Pawlikowska operates an open-door
policy at the HPEC. "We run an internal consultancy for
the busy clinician or busy biomedical scientist who teaches
students. So, if you want to reflect on your teaching, or
evaluate what you are doing, or see what international best
practices are at the moment, then you are welcome to send
an email, or knock on the door."
There are busy times ahead for HPEC and Professor
Pawlikowska hopes to engage more faculty staff members in
the Centre's initiatives. She is also looking forward to the TEL
pilot projects review in March 2015.
The experience
of learning
How HPEC supports innovative,
effective teaching
Professor Teresa Pawlikowska,
Director, Health Professions
Education Centre, RCSI.