Reflection on the evolutionary journey of a novice to become a competent, experienced clinician educator.
As far as I could remember, I was never being formally taught on how to plan a proper lesson for a teaching session. Never in my whole life as a clinical teacher! Come to think about it, I never actually received a proper instructional guidance to become a teacher. I was thrown into the battlefield almost immediately after I qualified as a clinical O&G specialist in 1997. I might have imposed more damage and harm on my students’ learning experience during my teaching sessions all these years!
Married for 20 over years to my husband who is a trained teacher, a graduate of Islamic Studies and holding a Diploma in Education, is somewhat a blessing for me. I witnessed how he planned for his classes carefully, constructing his teaching objectives and outlining the minute-to-minute steps on the teaching and learning methods. I had always wondered on how to plan for my clinical teaching sessions – but somewhat was able to convince myself that it might not be possible to come up with a lesson plan for such an opportunistic clinical teaching session. I had minimal exposure to basic learning or educational theories, micro-teaching or peer assessment on my teaching ability. The only teaching supervision I received was once, when a senior consultant sat quietly at the back of the lecture theatre for 10 short minutes during a lecture I delivered to a small group of medical students. The feedback I got from him later was a very general comment of : `You are ok!’. I ended up emulating the teaching styles of my predecessors : harsh, regimented, teacher-centred full with humiliation and degradation for my learners. I hardly know much about pedagogy, learning and educational theories or specific communication skills for teaching.
Brew and Ginn (2008) indicated that students experienced a higher quality course input when the teachers were engaged with the scholarship of teaching. Certainly, a well-designed teacher education programme would improve the competencies of teachers and enhance the students’ learning experience. Such an awareness dawned to me quite some time ago, which drawn my interest further into the educational track of my career. I attended a few faculty development programmes organized by the university which highlighted the importance of Bloom’s taxonomy, constructing of learning outcomes and assessment tools. However I found the input was too general and difficult to apply to teaching in clinical setting.
As a novice clinical teacher, I remember how anxious I was preparing for the rounds. I would carefully select my own patients whom I admitted for bedside teaching sessions with the medical students. I would get easily angered, disappointed and furious by my students’ inabilities to present a detailed history, perform a proper physical examination and formulate the provisional diagnosis. The teaching environment was always hostile and I found my students to be withdrawn and passive, much to my dismay! The vicious cycle continued. I never stopped to think and reflect, that it might have been my incompetency as a teacher that contributed to the ineffectiveness of the teaching and learning activities. Nope, it was not me – the students were weak and poor in all aspects! This was my stage of `unconscious incompetence’ as described by Robinson WL (1974).
Now, after 17 years of being a clinical teacher, I am more aware of my roles and functions as an educator in a student-centred learning environment. I am able to pitch my teachings to whatever level of maturity my students might be at (undergraduates, postgraduates or peers), in the wards, clinics or even at the corridors. I could now turn an empty patient bed into a productive and valuable clinical teaching material for my students’ learning. My attempt to obtain a postgraduate certificate in clinical teaching this year is most probably a manifestation of my journey towards the fifth stage of the conscious competence learning model as proposed by David Baume (2004). It is indeed refreshing and rejuvenating to travel a committed journey of a lifelong learner!