Involving Learners As Teachers in Medical Education

Expert faculty are an essential part of a quality independent medical education (IME) activity, but a great deal of value can be added by including learners as teachers within an activity. Because of their different perspectives and experiences, learning physicians are able to provide insight into the challenges a less experienced physician may face. While expert faculty often focus on ideal patient scenarios that perfectly illustrate current patient management strategies, the learning physician is more likely to focus on patients for whom treatment is less clear, presenting a more accurate picture of what they and their colleagues encounter in day-to-day practice. These cases provide an interesting and valuable learning opportunity, as they highlight unique challenges and the potential strategies to overcome these challenges.

When physicians learn from their peers, they gain insight into how their direct colleagues are treating patients and incorporating new ideas, which may help improve their patient care or reaffirm their current treatment practices. Indeed, learning from and communicating with peers is consistently rated as one of the most valuable strategies to help incorporate new ideas and techniques into clinical practice. When incorporating new data into patient care, physicians pass through multiple stages, from awareness, investigation, and reflection to application and adoption. Receiving input from peers on how they have overcome these hurdles can be invaluable, providing the learner with insight as to how “someone in their situation” might handle a particular scenario.

Beyond helping the audience members, serving as ‘teachers’ at an IME event provides a key benefit for the physicians who participate: the experts become their audience and can provide the critical feedback necessary to refine not only patient care but also teaching and presentation skills, which can be essential throughout career development.

When the learners become the teachers, new and interesting learning opportunities emerge, and everyone walks away with valuable insight. Allowing learners to have a platform to review treatment options with a larger group increases engagement and leads to interesting and practical interactions, ultimately elevating the learning experience for everyone involved.