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(This is a pretty long first post to these forums - apologies)
Recently, all the students in our medical school received an email from the MSC (Medical Student Council), which said the following:
'A new multi-million pound Medical School will be built on the current site at ... within the next 3-4 years.
Medical school staff are currently planning this project with architects and the MSC would like to involve students in this exciting and important process. We would like your input and suggestions. Is there anything you would like to see included in the new medical school? What would have made your life easier as a student here?'
While I am grateful that they have thought to include students in the discussions about this massive renovation, I have some concerns about how this money is being spent, and I thought I would be put it out there to see what other students around the country (and world) think.
Essentially, my gut reaction when I received the email was amazement that the Medical School had millions of pounds to spend, and that it was going to spend it on rebuilding the site.
I am currently in third year, and, although I have enjoyed my time at this University so far, I have a number of gripes about the course. I am sure I would say the same about any course, and I accept that none would be perfect, but where there is that amount of money to spend, I do not understand why it is not being spent on the following things.
Our course, in the first three years, is largely lecture based, with two hours of lectures each day, and some clinical skills/ward teaching/Primary Care teaching in the afternoons. We occasionally have 'tutorials', although I would argue these are more akin to mini-lectures.
While we are assigned to 'Student Support tutors' within the medical school, who are there to provide pastoral care, mine was initially a member of staff in the Medical School Office, and had no clinical background. We also have tutors in the Primary Care teaching block, but again they over-see much of the ‘Good Medical Practice’ teaching of ‘Doctors, Patients, and Communities’, and do not deliver any of the core science or clinical teaching. These are our only real personal contact with any member of the faculty in a formal educational environment.
So, in three years in this Medical School, I do not feel that any of the faculty or staff who have been involved in our core education has taken an interest in, or had the opportunity to take an interest in, our individual learning. There is never the opportunity for the staff to learn who their students are, and if they do get as far as asking our names, they are unlikely to take us again for any other sessions. We have one-off 'tutorials', where a tutor who has never met us before runs through a list of questions either giving us the answers or waiting for us to provide them, but rarely with interactive teaching, and never with a chance to find out later if we have retained what they have taught us. Our only real assessment is the do-or-die online, multiple-choice exam and OSCE at the end of the year.
So far so good. I understand that not every University can provide tutors who regularly meet with their students, who see how they are progressing, who deliver the content and can decide whether it has been retained or not - and then adjust their teaching accordingly if not - and who can address individual learning issues. I agree that that is essentially what happened at school, and that at University we need to take personal responsibility for our learning.
But if the University can afford to spend millions of pounds on renovating the lecture theatres, I would argue that it would be far better spent on teaching staff who could put more hours and effort into our education.
We have a wealth of experience in front of us each morning delivering our lectures. Almost exclusively, they will deliver it by Powerpoint. They will charge through the slides, sometimes getting through as many as 70 slides in an hour, and occasionally include a cursory ‘Any questions?’ as the clock strikes 10 for the next lecture to begin. Why, with a multi-million pound budget for individual seats, each with a power socket so that students can sit with their laptops and their powerpoints in front of them, as our Dean envisaged at one MSC meeting, can the Medical School not provide a few more tutors instead, break the year into our tutorial groups on a regular basis, and give us the same tutor, week in and week out, delivering the core content to us, and assessing our retention of their teaching?
Given the paradigm of evidence-based medicine, it seems relatively sensible to monitor how effective any given learning opportunity is in terms of student up-take of the material taught. Again, other than our exam at the end of the year, the teaching staff have next to no way of checking if the lectures they have delivered have had any impact on our learning. Clearly, the curriculum is being thought up by the faculty, delivered by the lecturers, and regurgitated by the students once a year in the exams – but there is no reason to believe that the teaching is being absorbed or is effective, as opposed to students making up for it in their own time, through personal studying. Yes, the latter should occur, but to complement the teaching, not to replace it.
To conclude, I would like to hear how other Medical Schools carry out their teaching, how much effort they make to check whether the methods of teaching they employ are effective, and whether other students think that multi-million pound investment in the medical school’s facilities would be better spent on providing more dedicated teaching staff.