My Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy changes the more I learn. So hopefully this page will evolve and improve with my understanding. I’m also not happy with the way this is worded. Note to self: fix this crap later


The teacher’s role is to guide students to discover their knowledge. Comprehension cannot be bestowed upon students, instead they must build it for themselves for it to be enduring. Learning is an active process.

And yet the passivity of lectures leaves a lot of learning left on the table. Powerpoint needed to go. Instead, we use our time together working through real examples. For example, when studying trauma we don’t do a formal lecture. Instead the students manage a case of an unfortunate patient I had seen early in my career who sustained three bullet wounds to his buttocks. Through this case we discover how to manage what turns out to be a challenging and surprising case.

The amount of information confronting students is enormous. The instructor’s role is to structure this knowledge to make it more accessible to learners. The material needs to be broken down into manageable chunks, organized in a way that students can add these to their pre-existing knowledge frameworks, give them the opportunity to immediately apply this and then allow them the time to reflect upon how they’ve changed their knowledge maps. By using elements of deliberate practice, students can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their time spent learning.

There are probably as many ways that students learn as there are ways that instructors teach. I try to provide students with as many modalities as possible. Visual learners use my colorful videos filled with concept maps. Verbal learners can simply listen to the narration or read the accompanying written material online. Sensing learners connect with the clinical examples while intuitive students can follow the connections I made as well as create their own.

A good teacher is also excited about the material. This involves humor, stories and including the student’s own personal experiences into the teaching. A good part of it is showmanship. The classroom should also be a safe place for a student to explore their understanding. It is okay to be wrong. In fact, I tell them “better wrong than silent.”

The student’s role is to follow the path their curiosity takes them. They need to realize their ultimate responsibility is to their patients. They need to prepare themselves to serve that need. The clerkship in Emergency Medicine is designed to give them the skills to address the acute problems of their patients and to deal with uncertainty in a systematic way.

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