My teaching philosophy is built upon three components: creating a safe learning environment that enables a growth mindset, fostering clinical reasoning skills and modeling inter-professional and collaborative team-based patient care. I embrace both the nurturing and developmental domains of teaching, striving to set challenging, yet attainable goals for learners, where mistakes are not seen as failures but rather learning opportunities, while also pushing them to develop their own increasingly sophisticated cognitive framework for clinical reasoning.
The best learning takes place in an environment where learners are not afraid of failure and where they can be pushed beyond their comfort zone and still feel supported by both the educator and their peers. Creating a climate of caring and trust allows students to be vulnerable and encourages them to actively participate. Engagement is crucial as learners’ achievements are a product of their own effort. Fostering a supportive learning environment enables learners to take risks and expose gaps in their knowledge. This provides ample opportunity for furthering their education, enabling the educator to individualize teaching topics to the learner and better fill knowledge gaps unique to that trainee. To build this learning environment at the start of every teaching session, I tell the learners that I ask a lot of questions, not to demonstrate their lack of knowledge, but rather to learn what people do know so that together we can find the right place to start for teaching.
Clinical reasoning skills are vital for anyone in the field of medicine, so I strive to help learners build their own conceptual framework for clinical reasoning through pattern recognition and by helping learners make their own connections between symptoms and syndromes. I work with learners to develop increasingly sophisticated problem representations in order to create a focused differential. By pushing trainees to build on simple ideas towards increasingly complex concepts, it enables learners to develop their own critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills. Trainees need to know not only the medical facts, but also have a structure for how those facts relate to the patient in front of them. While on the wards, I encourage learners to give me their own differential for a patient’s presenting symptom, then ask them how that differential would change if one semantic qualifier were to altered (e.g. the patient’s cough was no longer acute but rather chronic).
Finally, learners are most successful when their teachers model behaviors that their educators are trying to promote. Medicine is not practiced in isolation, but rather as a team with our patient, their families and other medical professionals all working towards the same ultimate goal. I strive to break down the hierarchy within medical teams and believe that all team members, from the medical student to the ancillary staff to the attending, have value to add to patient care. I work to create a space where every voice can be heard and I try to model humanism and enthusiasm, even on the longest of days. Teaching helps to renew my passion for medicine, even when faced with a challenging clinical scenario, I work to reframe these challenges as learning opportunities, which in turns helps me continually find meaning in medicine.
Teaching is something I truly love. I find it a great privilege to help educate future leaders in the health care field. As an educator I am constantly seeking opportunities for continued personal growth. I am working on targeting and highlighting specific steps in the clinical reasoning process to encourage deliberate practice for myself and my learners. I hope my passion for medicine and education inspires learners, and I continue to strive to model professionalism and enthusiasm whether it is on the wards, in clinic or in the classroom.