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Putting it All Together: Medical School Course Integrates Pedagogical Techniques

This past spring, Professors Rachel Gordon and Stephen Canfield worked with educational technologists at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning to adopt a number of new pedagogical approaches for their Body, Health, and Disease course. These new approaches helped the College of Physician and Surgeons professors change the dynamics of their 250-student classrooms.

Rachel Gordon
Professor Gordon focused on using the principles of Just in Time Teaching (JiTT), and was able to attain much higher student engagement while enjoying greater satisfaction with her teaching. JiTT is a teaching and learning strategy based on pre-class assignments—similar to flipping the classroom—, an audience response system (ARS), the case study method, and peer/collaborative learning.

Professor Gordon used the ARS to assess her student's learning. Prof. Gordon produced short video lectures for her students to review before class. Then she would present a case study in class. Using the concepts and content from the lecture material, students would respond to a poll that challenged them to choose the best course of treatment. Using a dashboard summary of student responses, Prof. Gordon would decide whether or not to proceed to the next case study. If the majority of the students chose correctly, Prof. Gordon would have a student representative explain the correct choice and then move on to the next case study. If 50% or less of the students chose the correct answer, she would ask her students to discuss their choices in small groups. After a brief discussion, Prof. Gordon would re-poll her students. Typically, the peer discussions led to an increase of more than 75% accuracy when students were polled a second time.

Having peer discussions helped students adjust their response, and enabled positive, collaborative learning. Prof. Gordon reported a notable increase in student engagement in spite of the many challenges with teaching in a large lecture hall setting. In her opinion, a majority of her students were listening, participating in the polls, and engaging in discussions.

I hope that more educators take the plunge--it's worth it!Prof. Gordon wrote that, “even using JiTT for the very first time, it was apparent that it was a successful and powerful learning approach." She posed difficult questions to her class, and was impressed by the vibrant discussions that followed. "On many levels it was more satisfying than lecturing where you don't really know if the students are 'getting it.' With JiTT, that's exactly what you find out and can teach accordingly. I hope that more educators take the plunge--it's worth it!"

Prof. Gordon's students also responded positively in a survey taken at the end of the course. Many indicated that the shift from lecture to case study discussion, and the use of the ARS, helped them to solidify their grasp on course material.

In the video below, created for a related grant proposal, Professor Gordon illustrates the benefits of flipping the classroom.