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There has never been a classroom…

It’s been said that, “There has never been a classroom better than its teacher!” in short, I couldn’t agree more!

We have all been in the role of learner, sitting in a lecture or workshop, or participating in some virtual or on-demand learning activity. The classroom may be literal or figurative…but we are excited by the topic, the objectives, the opportunity…the learner settles in and the speaker (or teacher or facilitator) begins….and ugh…learning grinds to a halt.

Just this morning as I listened to one of my favorite podcasts this frustration smacked me right between the ears. I tuned in excited to hear about new research from an Ivy-league trained, fully tenured professor…it was a beautiful morning…the sun shone brightly….the birds chirped…and within seconds of the episode beginning I became distracted. In this case, the renowned, subject matter expert ended the vast majority of her sentences with ‘up speak’ – that thing where every sentence sounds like a question. I struggled to make it through…it was an inefficient learning experience to say the least. Was she uncertain in what she was telling me, was the data in question, what was she really trying to say? From what I could tell the content was everything I would have expected…but the experience was not.

Flashback to a little more than a week ago. I logged into a webinar with an expert in rheumatology exploring his new research…fascinating topic. I was highly motivated to learn more, to consume every last morsel…10 minutes later I was logging off. There are only so many times I can hear someone say ‘next slide’ or ‘on this slide what I wanted to say was that …yada, yada, yada.”

Tell me a story. Structure the content to make it consumable. Speak clearly. Mitigate the extraneous load of learning.

I was moved to write up these recent experiences because I have always been fascinated by how we conflate subject matter expertise or professional titles with the ability to create meaningful educational experiences…and teach.

As much as the educational community needs to fully embrace adult learning theory, instructional design hacks, and even the learning actions research….it seems illogical to apply all of this marvelous, practical research and then forget about the teacher…or to make assumptions about teaching competency.




Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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