Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A New Way Of Teaching?

I was looking through one of my closets yesterday when I stumbled across an old dusty ring binder. I pulled it off the shelf only to discover that it was my own note from PT school. It was interesting to look at my old hand written notes of classes long since attended and to wonder what was so different from those dusty old notes to the digital versions that I am currently preparing for my next set of students.

The answer - not a lot.

Teaching in physical therapy is a curious business. On one hand we are driven to follow the 'gods' of evidence based practice, yet on the other hand common sense must also be adhered to. From the time I was a student, there have certainly been advances in research and we have a better understanding of the things that we do now than we did 20 years ago. However, the typed massage notes, held together by rusted staples, from 1955 contain the same information that my high tech powerpoint presentation does. Is teaching today just about the whistles and bells we can put on the information we communicate? Is today's professor nothing more than an actor with a script trying to entertain his 'audience' so the acclaim at the end of semester evaluations strokes the ego and gives a sense of a job well done?

I truly hope not.

While there are huge differences between the way students learn today from my glory days as a punk-kid of a student, the fundamentals of learning remain the same. If the teacher cannot communicate the information at hand in a way that the student can understand it then learning is rarely achieved. So the teacher has a responsibility to change. But what about the student?

One thing that teaching orthopedics has shown me over the years is that while the nuts and bolts may not have changed that much, if I cannot teach a student in a way that they can learn then I may as well be the teacher from the old "Peanuts" cartoons - off camera, with a droning voice that continuously utters unintelligible words.

I hope and pray that this semester I may be able to not just teach but to inspire learning in my students. I would prefer to instill a desire and thirst for knowledge rather than fill empty vessels with what I believe to be essential for work in my chosen specialty.

Only time will tell, and that time will begin very shortly.