A preview of the new Foundations Curriculum: an integrated and engaging learning experience

Dec 16, 2015
Students in CBL tutorial

“People learn in different ways,” asserts Dana Pennell, a 1T8 student at the Mississauga Academy of Medicine (MAM). “For me, a large lecture hall isn’t necessarily my ideal learning environment. Some students need to be able to pause and discuss things in groups to fully digest and absorb content. The new Foundations Curriculum supports this way of learning.”

The start of the 2015/2016 academic year marked the second opportunity for the 1T8 class to preview and provide feedback on aspects of the new Foundations Curriculum. The class experienced their second Case-Based Learning (CBL) unit over three weeks covering the topics of cell damage, inflammation and neoplasia. 

To support their CBL experience, students were given online modules containing virtual patient cases guided by a virtual preceptor. “Providing all the case information, in addition to reliable resources, in one place online makes learning more accessible,” says Dana. “It also prepares students to be independent and to learn how to research to find the answers we need on our own.”

Through CBL, students combine all course learning from the week together and apply it to the case module – integrating knowledge of basic science and clinical topics – in a small group environment guided by a faculty tutor.   

“Integrating clinical and scientific concepts early on is key,” says Dr. Angela Punnett, Assistant Professor & Director of Undergraduate Medical Education for Paediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children. A CBL tutor, Dr. Punnett is supportive of providing early exposure to clinical content that promotes learning in context. “It’s why people go to medical school – the desire to care for patients and the exciting medical advances that support their care. Early integration of clinical and scientific knowledge produces better clinicians because they’ve been trained to marry the two, and they’ll carry that with them.”

Dr. Anthony D’urzo, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, a community physician and also a CBL tutor, found that group-based learning encouraged a pragmatic learning experience that was reflective of the real world. “Each student brings a unique skill-set and perspective to the table,” Dr. D’urzo states. “Through group-based learning activities, students are able to share their unique points of view and learn from each other.”

Group-based learning also nurtures communication skills and prepares students for presenting cases in clerkship, notes Dr. Punnett. “With increased online content, it’s beneficial to provide students a forum to work together in a team as well. Medicine is moving towards a team-based approach, and it’s beneficial to model this approach early on,” states Dr. Punnett.

CBL is one of the ways that the Foundations Curriculum offers students an active learning experience. “The new curriculum gives students the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and take a leadership role in their learning process. An integrated and dynamic learning process fosters creativity. It becomes not just about acquiring knowledge, but about fostering creativity and innovation in how knowledge is applied,” concludes Dr. D’urzo. 

For more information about the Foundations Curriculum, see an overview of the new curriculum


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