The University of Florida has established a new master’s degree program geared toward helping physicians be better teachers and training them to be scholars in the field.
The colleges of Education and Medicine have joined forces to offer an online joint master’s degree program, which will begin in the fall and is open to physicians across the state of Florida.
“Most faculty arrive at their position without any formal training in teaching techniques and best practices,” said Marian Limacher, M.D., senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development in the College of Medicine. “They have been students so long themselves they have developed their own style, but it may not be founded in best practices.”
Teaching is generally not a skill taught in medical school, as physicians-in-training are more focused on learning about the process of disease and how to treat patients. But as physicians move forward in their careers and begin to teach medical students, residents and fellows, there is a need for more advanced knowledge in instructional strategies and also research methods used to measure educational outcomes, which differ from the research techniques used in medical science.
“Many health science professionals have been exposed to a monochromatic view of education that is lecture-based and behavioristically driven,” said Erik Black, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine department of pediatrics and the College of Education School of Teaching and Learning. “That is not necessarily where medical education is going. Today, there is a growing emphasis on small group learning, team-based learning and constructivist principles of instruction and learning.
“There is a need for medical educators to learn about and incorporate more contemporary educational methods. It is something students request and something faculty want but do not necessarily know how to deliver.”
The 36-hour master’s degree program will arm physicians with instructional strategies they can use in the clinical education setting and give them the tools to assess educational efforts, as well. Courses include subjects such as instructional design, research methods in professional and medical education, adult teaching and learning and more.
The program stems from a pilot project faculty members in the colleges of Education and Medicine have been working on for the past two years. As part of that project, funded by the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, five UF physicians and a pharmacist are receiving master’s degrees in education, with a focus on using technology in education.
“We see so much potential in the connection between our two colleges. It is a unique arrangement and has helped us to move this work along,” said Elizabeth Bondy, Ph.D., a professor and director of the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education. “At the bedside, there is a lot of teaching and learning that goes on in those moments. What we do in the School of Teaching and Learning is focus on teaching and learning in diverse settings.”
Eventually, the program likely will be opened up to professionals in other health fields, Black said.
For clinical educators in the College of Medicine, the issue is particularly important. The college is currently revising its tenure and promotion guidelines so that faculty who have pursued advanced education in teaching and who are conducting research in medical education can use this in their tenure applications, Limacher said.
“We think this program will have appeal to a number of folks within the College of Medicine,” Limacher said. “The interest is there.”