Teaching the Foundations Curriculum: Experience from the classroom

Jul 5, 2016

Dr. Natalie ClavelThe new Foundations Curriculum involves a new approach to teaching that focuses on building strong, and long-term relationships with students. As teachers prepare to begin teaching the Foundations Curriculum in the 2016-2017 academic year, we asked Dr. Natalie Clavel, Department of Anesthesia to share her experience as a Case-Based Learning (CBL) tutor with us. 

Having participated in a preview of the new Foundations Curriculum for first year students as a CBL tutor, how did this experience differ from your previous teaching experiences?

I facilitated the same small group of students over the course of several weeks. I really got to know the students and took on a mentorship role which continued long past the end of the CBL preview.  It was incredibly rewarding to see students’ progress over time and to be a part of building their foundational knowledge, including helping them integrate everything they learned – the science and the clinical skills – and applying it to a virtual case.  It’s what they’ll be doing throughout their careers. 

Did the experience push you out of your comfort zone? Did you feel prepared?

I’m an Anesthesiologist.  The section I taught covered topics that I wasn’t closely familiar with in my practice, but none of the material was outside of my skill set.  I was armed with a manual that included references and resources as well as primers to help me get familiar with the week’s case.  And when students asked questions I didn’t know the answer to, I just let them know that the question fell outside of my area of expertise and I would get back to them. I would find out the answer from one of my many knowledgeable colleagues and I would follow up with the students either via e-mail or I would address it the following week in class.  If the question was relevant to the whole class, I knew that I could also bring the question forward to the content lead for the week so they could speak to the topic in lecture.

Overall, I found the teaching experience to be more about my ability to build the students’ competencies as physicians through facilitation – rather than the depth of my knowledge in a specific area.  

Was it stressful to prepare each week?

The prep time differed each week, depending on the content. I think once you’ve gone through the content once, you would become more confident with the topic and case and would be able to do it again the following year without significant preparation.   

It took roughly one to three hours to prepare, plus the actual teaching time. It was a significant time commitment, but it was rewarding and the benefits have made it worth it. It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day work. But building relationships with students helps to keep me connected and has made me a more well-rounded physician. I still keep in touch with many of my former students – offering career advice or providing clinical experiences – it’s those long-term connections that made the experience so rewarding.   

If you want to find out more or are interested in getting involved, visit Teaching roles in the Foundations Curriculum.

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