Early in my career I was lucky to work with terrific mentors and mentees. I am not always sure they were fortunate to work with me. With no formal training in education—other than as a learn-as-you-go piano and ballet teacher and teaching assistant in my youth—I might have benefited greatly from a crash course in educational theory and basic teaching skills. Forty years ago, medical teachers did not receive additional training in education. Back then, the PhDs listed on medical school and residency rosters represented basic scientists, not educators or social scientists. Now there are increasing numbers of medical school and residency program faculty with formal training in education and the social sciences.
I see this transition as a groundbreaking change in medical education, in contrast to the “flipped” classroom, which was the norm when I was in training, or simulation, which we called role play, or outcomes-based assessment, formerly labeled clinical skills examination. In my mind, a revolution has begun with the hiring and promoting of faculty with new educational skills and tools, acquired through formal and informal means. This departure from the past may result in more rational, evidence-based training programs. After all, whether used to acquire a new language, new science, or new craft, it is the same human brain that is engaged in the learning process. Medical teachers cannot afford to ignore the science and art of how humans learn.
Yet many current program directors, medical school teachers, and other clinician educators did not major in education in college, nor will they have the finances and time to obtain an additional degree. Fortunately, it is not the initials after one's name that are essential but the skill set. Although experiential learning is among the most powerful ways to learn, there are many terrific articles that can enhance one's knowledge, and, if translated into practice, one's skills as a teacher, program director, or educational researcher.
I have assembled a list of favorite articles to which I frequently refer faculty, fellows, and authors (table). If you have submitted a paper to the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, it is likely that you have been referred to 1 or more of these articles. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, or to replace a systematic review of influential articles in medical education. Instead, these articles represent idiosyncratic choices that may provide a gentle nudge to start reading outside your clinical field to enhance your educator tool kit.
Since reading in a vacuum is not likely to be as helpful as focused reading, I suggest that articles be read when they pertain to an immediate need such that the information can be implemented quickly after reading. As with every other medical skill, teaching and research skills must be practiced and refined to be most effective.
Please send us your recommendations as well. Let us know what methods you have employed to enhance your performance as an educator. Happy reading!
Gail M. Sullivan, MD, MPH, is Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Graduate Medical Education, and Professor of Medicine, University of Connecticut.