Sunday, January 25, 2009

Can You Teach Without Learning? The Teacher as Learner

I have spent the past few days at work with some time to think a bit more deliberately about incorporating some teaching into the tasks that come up. If you have the time a teaching moment can be extracted from almost any situation. It's the way doctors have learned their trade for a long time; an apprenticeship.

My thoughts were focused a little further in the distance though. I realized through my lack of answers to some of my learners questions that I can't help but learn while teaching. Applying textbook knowledge to naive questions makes you go beyond knowing and head towards understanding material. That was also the way it was in my MBA class. Having to teach the class a concept always felt awkward, but in the end it made you learn and explain the concepts.

Now, if doctors can adopt the idea that each patient interaction should involve some teaching then does it not follow that we will become better at our craft while educating patients? Does opening up the floor for questions identify our knowledge deficiencies and also identify areas we could research and innovate in?

I still think that the first treatment a doctor should prescribe is education. Knowing about one's illness is the key to taking control of it. If a fringe benefit is to improve ourselves as physicians, then I don't see what is holding us back?

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