MANUSCRIPT: Physician as teacher: Promoting health and wellness among elementary school students
Every day, physicians engage in teaching during their patient encounters. It may be that medical students who are introduced to the principles of teaching and learning are more likely to become good communicators and learners. Service-learning may be an effective way for medical students to practice skills in teaching and communication in a real-world setting, while also filling a need within the community. The purpose of this study was to identify common themes within medical students’ reflections on what they learned through participating in a teaching exercise with local elementary school children.
As a required component of a longitudinal prevention and public health course that spans the first and second years of undergraduate medical education, second year students at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, in Detroit, Michigan, in the USA completed a service-learning activity, which included teaching a standardized curricular module to local elementary school children. Students were required to complete a reflection assignment based on their teaching experience. Medical students’ responses to assignment’s three guided questions were qualitatively coded to identify common themes among the responses related to the teaching activity.
Qualitative analysis of students’ reflections revealed several themes regarding what the students learned and viewed as the benefits of the activity: The importance of early education and parental involvement; the importance of understanding your audience when teaching; the importance of simplifying complex concepts to the audience’s level; and the importance of preparation for teaching. Medical students identified the difficulties of communicating at an audience appropriate level and providing patient education outside the confines of a controlled classroom setting.
This activity provided medical students with hands-on experience presenting to an audience age-appropriate, health-related topics. Presenting in an elementary school environment helped students better understand what health information various age groups knew about and the importance of clarifying information when communicating with a younger audience.