In July 2017, first-year medical students began learning under the WrightCurriculum, the new curriculum of the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. Now, a year later, medical school administrators and members of the class of 2021 consider the first year a success.
“After years of planning, prioritizing content, and field testing teaching and learning strategies, we implemented the WrightCurriculum in July 2017 with the entering class of 2021,” said Brenda Roman, associate dean for medical education at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “While the curriculum will continue to evolve as faculty and students learn together what works best within a learning environment of collaboration, respect and integrity, we consider the first year a success.”
The WrightCurriculum is built for physician education in the 21st century that focuses on life-long learning and fosters a curiosity about patients, in diagnosing and managing diseases, as well as considering the social determinants of health that impact outcomes for patients. The curriculum is delivered in the context of a supportive and collaborative learning environment that fosters the personal and professional growth of medical students.
Ben Clouse, a medical student from New Riegel, Ohio, found the WrightCurriculum to be an opportunity for him and other medical students to develop learning styles and strategies that work best for them.
“This approach creates students that are life-long learners and, with time, will create quality physicians,” Clouse said. “The ability to not only learn the material but also discover how you, as an individual, learn best is what makes the WrightCurriculum a worthwhile experience.”
Joshua Madden, a medical student from Grandview, Missouri, developed an appreciation for the new curriculum. During his undergraduate years, he learned in a lecture setting with the instructor using PowerPoint. But under the WrightCurriculum, the Boonshoft School of Medicine eliminated lectures and now uses methods of teaching to foster learning by the students. These methods are grounded in the cognitive psychology of learning.
“After going through the courses, I began to love the WrightCurriculum,” Madden said. “I really learned and retained information better than I ever had.”
Kaitie Kudlac, a medical student from Austin, Texas, was unsure about the WrightCurriculum at first. But she found she liked the new learning style. “The WrightCurriculum gives you the opportunity to come into sessions with a broad knowledge and then gain a more focused understanding upon leaving the session,” she said. “It allows you to practice answering questions, similar to those you will see on a board exam, during class. You learn from your classmates through discussion.”
Roman said that these students’ experiences are examples of how the medical students in the class are becoming self-directed learners. “The WrightCurriculum has provided them with specific skills in critical thinking, discovering the best evidence to make decisions, and how to keep learning throughout a life of service in the practice of medicine,” she said.
In addition to preparing medical students for success on the many national licensing examinations, the medical school is continuing its commitment to graduate students with excellent clinical skills.
Maya Prabhu, a medical student from Cincinnati, valued the clinical skills she learned. “I really appreciated how much we are being prepared for actual doctoring,” she said. “We learned how to conduct a full physical exam and are learning how to do both the male and female exam. In addition, we learned about other aspects important to doctoring, such as promoting professionalism and balancing independence with teamwork.”
The WrightCurriculum features a great deal of small group collaborative learning as well as coaching and support from faculty and staff. “Our faculty and staff were outstanding partners in implementing the WrightCurriculum,” Roman said. “They were relentless in their commitment to the new curriculum, and their support was vital to the success of the first year.”
There are three phases of the WrightCurriculum: Foundations (70 weeks), Doctoring (52 weeks), and Advanced Doctoring (52 Weeks). The WrightCurriculum takes a developmental approach using milestones that build from the first weeks of school until graduation.
During the Foundations phase, classroom time is devoted to asking and solving questions and problems, using what one has learned from outside studying, and then applying it to the classroom. Doctoring starts in the spring of the second year and continues into the third year. This phase provides extensive supervised clinical experience in a range of clinical facilities and practices. Advanced Doctoring completes the final year of medical school with robust preparation for residency.
The faculty teach the medical students through three different but related strategies. One is Team-Based LearningTM, a small-group instructional strategy. Class time is focused on application and integration of knowledge. Students engage in small group problem-solving exercises that require extensive out-of-class preparation and critical thinking.
The second is Peer Instruction, an extensively researched teaching and learning strategy developed by Erik Mazur, Ph.D., for his undergraduate physics classes at Harvard. Again, the medical school is a pioneer in this teaching and learning strategy, as it is the first medical school to use Peer Instruction. Students prepare extensively outside of class, and when they come to class they don’t work within their identified teams but in smaller informal clusters of other students to solve progressively complex problems posed by the instructor.
The third is WrightQ, the medical school’s adaptation of problem-based learning, a long-established strategy where students work in small groups to study a patient case by identifying what they need to learn to understand it, make a differential diagnosis, and identify possible treatment approaches. Students research the case’s learning goals outside of class, then return to the group to present and share their findings. A faculty member facilitates each group’s exploration of the case and stimulates the development of asking the right questions.
Mark Crager, a medical student from West Jefferson, Ohio, liked all three learning strategies of the WrightCurriculum. “Peer Instruction offers a relevant and comparative question style. The Team-Based LearningTM format is more intricately focused, with questions that delve much deeper in detail and utilize the teams’ group think after an initial quiz,” Crager said. “The WrightQ format provides a real world environment where a physician would gather additional data to appropriately diagnose, manage, and treat patients. This learning format is enlightening in gaining medical knowledge applicable to our future practice.”
In July, these five students, along with the other members of the class of 2021, will begin their second year of medical school, as they continue to learn under the WrightCurriculum.
— Heather Maurer