Year : 2022 | Volume
: 49 | Issue : 1 | Page : 3--5
Strengthening the process of self-directed learning in medical education by targeting teachers and students
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava1, Prateek Saurabh Shrivastava2,
1 Medical Education Unit Coordinator and Member of the Institute Research Council, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (SBV) – Deemed to be University, Thiruporur - Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District - 603108, Tamil Nadu
The range of knowledge and skills expected of a medical student upon completion of their course is vast. There is an immense need to encourage self-directed learning (SDL) among medical students, which in turn will help the medical institutions to attain the core competency of transforming students into lifelong learners. Medical teachers have to play crucial roles and they should be looked upon as one of the sources for skills and not a source of content. The success of SDL depends upon the extent of involvement of the students in the entire process and this has to begin with, being aware of SDL, accepting the fact that SDL is the way to go into the field of medical education and to enable practicing of evidence-based medicine. To conclude, SDL is an effective and vital strategy to expedite learning among medical students. The need of the hour is to give SDL adequate importance and the success of the initiative will eventually depend on the facilitation role of the teacher and the active engagement of the student.
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Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Strengthening the process of self-directed learning in medical education by targeting teachers and students.J Sci Soc 2022;49:3-5
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Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Strengthening the process of self-directed learning in medical education by targeting teachers and students. J Sci Soc [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 29 ];49:3-5
Available from: https://www.jscisociety.com/text.asp?2022/49/1/3/343703
The range of knowledge and skills expected of a medical student upon completion of their course is vast and it is quite a challenging task for a teacher as well to transform a young student into competent health-care professional. Although spoon-feeding has been preferred as the learning approach by many students as it gives them quick access to knowledge, this leads to a false assumption that teachers are the only source of information. In accordance with the principles of adult learning, we have to accept that the learning amongst medical students is not restricted within classroom settings, nevertheless, students identify their own needs, and accordingly learn at their speed in their favorable settings. The purpose of the current review is to understand the need of self-directed learning (SDL), and the roles of a teacher and student in facilitating the same in the medical institution setup.
Need of Self-directed Learning
Moreover, considering the fact that medical knowledge keeps changing with each day, it becomes vital that a medical professional has to continue to learn throughout their careers to stay abreast with the recent developments and ensure that no one is deprived of the recent medical developments (practice evidence-based medicine)., We cannot ignore the reality that medical student has to reflect on their learning, and take personal efforts to develop critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and problem-solving skills, which are all crucial for a successful medical professional., All the above-mentioned facts and observations justify the need to encourage SDL amongst medical students, which in turn will help the medical institutions to attain the core competency of transforming students into lifelong learners.,,
COVID-19 Pandemic and Self-directed Learning
The emergence of coronavirus disease-19 pandemic proved to be a major obstacle in the delivery of medical education, especially during the period of lockdown, wherein the medical institutions were closed to interrupt the chain of transmission. Even though, the medical colleges rose to the occasion and resorted to online teaching-learning and assessment, nevertheless the major onus of learning was on medical students. It became the responsibility of the students to efficiently utilize their time and the offered learning opportunities so that the learning goes on unperturbed. As a matter of fact, in the recently adopted competency-based medical curriculum for undergraduates across all the medical institutions in India, SDL has been formally introduced and a specified number of teaching hours have been allocated in each phase of the training period.,,
Role of a Medical Teacher in Self-directed Learning
Even though it might appear that SDL eliminates the need for a teacher, with students being at the center stage, but that is not completely true. Medical teachers have to play crucial roles and they should be looked upon as one of the sources for skills and not a source of content. As already mentioned, the recently enrolled students have been trained in the past often through spoon-feeding, it becomes quite essential that these students should be made aware of the need, scope, and implications of SDL in the medical profession., The efforts should be directed in such a way that student understands the need and willingly resort to SDL.
In the initial stages, a teacher can develop a framework of the SDL, that provides a series of options for the students to continue their learning by organizing it effectively. The teachers in the process of SDL are more of a facilitator and play an important role in helping the students to identify their learning needs and guide them effectively to ensure that students are creative and critical in their thinking., The teachers can expose the students to various learning approaches (viz. prediction, questioning, seeking clarification, summarization, etc.) so that students learn the art to use the same to expedite their learning process. The medical teachers can also promote problem-based learning by sharing case vignettes or real-life problems into the classroom settings and asking the students to seek answers to the given problems.,
Further, teachers have an important role in making the learners self-evaluate their learning process so that they identify their weaknesses or the areas which require more attention, and hence become better in the due course. In addition, a teacher has to also become a strong motivator for the students to ensure that the students don't lose interest after a passage of time., Moreover, a teacher has to assume the roles of a partner (viz. teacher-student relationship is more of among equal one, wherein the student can easily approach the teacher for their queries without much apprehension) and a role model.,
Roles of a Medical Student in Self-directed Learning
The success of SDL depends upon the extent of involvement of the students in the entire process and this has to begin with, being aware of SDL, accepting the fact that SDL is the way to go into the field of medical education and to enable practicing of evidence-based medicine. In fact, the student has to take initiative in all the stages of the learning process and this will essentially require self-motivation. The students have to diagnose their learning needs and accordingly formulate learning objectives, and this may or may not be done in consultation with the teacher., The next step will be to identify the types of resources that are required by the students, as it will vary depending on the learning styles of the student.
The students should select an appropriate learning strategy suited to themselves and get thoroughly engaged in the learning process. In addition, the students have to carry out a periodic self-assessment and evaluate the complete process of learning by comparing the learning outcomes with the intended goals and learning objectives. In fact, the students have to change their learning strategy or the goal depending on the outcome and even seek assistance/guidance from the teachers if they are unable to resurrect the learning process. Finally, the students have to ensure that they critically reflect upon the entire process and continue to modify their strategy accordingly.,
Lessons from the Field
At Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, a constituent unit of the Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, a Deemed-to-be University, Puducherry, based on the norms specified by the regulatory body, as a part of the Competency-based Undergraduate Curriculum, specific steps have been taken. In each of the phases, the primary departments (for instance, Anatomy, Physiology, and Biochemistry in the first phase) have sat together and cumulatively identified the specific number of hours allocated to SDL. Simultaneously, at department levels, all the faculty members have together identified the topics for SDL. These topics have been conveyed to the students very well in advance and to assess whether the students have done reading or not, for each of the SDL sessions, students have been given some form of assignment. These assignments are being checked by the faculty member and appropriate constructive feedback has been given to the students to facilitate their learning.
Implications for Practice
SDL, is a recent component, especially considering the fact that till now it was only in the minds of medical educators, but now it has received formal recognition to be an integral part of the teaching-learning process. The major responsibility in this regard is the preparation of the time-table and keeping sessions of SDL spread throughout the year so that students continue to read on their own. Another important aspect is to identify the topics and this will once again require team efforts, as it is not only the responsibility of the Head of Departments but also other faculty members to cumulatively identify the topics for the same. Subsequently, very few students will actually indulge themselves in SDL, unless it is coupled with timely assessments. These assessments will act as evidence suggesting whether students are reading on their own or not. Moreover, it will give another opportunity for the teachers to understand their difficulties, guide them and simultaneously encourage reflection to eventually enable deep learning.
Implications for Research
As already specified, SDL is still finding feet in medical institutions and the best way to ensure that all the institutions come forward to implement the same in their settings is via showing them that SDL is effective in facilitating learning among students. This calls for the need to carry out research to understand the effectiveness of SDL in improving learning and the various barriers that can limit the successful implementation., We can definitely plan for a qualitative study to get an in-depth perspective about the same and this will significantly aid in the better implementation.,, Further, we can even plan for a longitudinal study to understand the impact of SDL in the long run in facilitating the acquisition of knowledge and/or skills.
To conclude, SDL is an effective and vital strategy to expedite learning among medical students. The need of the hour is to give SDL adequate importance and the success of the initiative will eventually depend on the facilitation role of the teacher and the active engagement of the student.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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