A new Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry undergraduate medical education curriculum prioritizes integrated, experiential learning and evaluates students based on competency rather than grades.
Released in November 2018, the curriculum shifts the learning model from traditional, passive learning in the format of didactic lectures to active learning that engages students through the early integration of clinical experiences and emphasis on interactive group projects and case-based activities.
More specifically, student evaluations for progression will no longer require a grade point average of 60 per cent but will depend on competency-based evaluations completed by a competency committee. The students will undergo more frequent, lower-stakes assessments that are evaluated by results rather than marks.
The initial phase of the new curriculum will launch in September 2019 for year one of Schulich's medicine class of 2023.
Gary Tithecott, associate dean of undergraduate medical education, explained the curriculum will build on the strengths of the present curriculum by adapting the context of learning to better serve the educational process.
“It’s going to be a lot more student-centric and a lot more sensitive to student needs,” he said. “Students will have the ability to be placed in physicians’ offices starting in year one, and they’ll be given time to do independent learning in the clinical environment so they can be able to have an experiential learning part of their curriculum at the start of medical school rather than in year three.”
Tithecott emphasized that providing students with opportunities to make simple decisions in first year will prepare them for making bolder decisions as senior students.
Among other curricular changes, the program will establish a coaching cohort of clinical faculty who will coach students through their education. Key themes such as cultural safety and diversity, and Indigenous culture and health will be integrated into course sessions instead of being presented as courses on their own.
In addition, the new method of assessment will allow students with advanced outcomes of the prescribed curriculum to pursue parallel master’s degrees or certificate programs.
Tithecott explained the shift to increased active learning is partially based on feedback from students over the years. Students have emphasized the value of learning in teams and highlighted team projects as some of the most highly valued educational experiences.
“The students are looking for an experience in medical school that immerses them in the work they’re going to do rather than the traditional model of two years of lectures, two years of simulated environments and then going into clinical care,” he said.
Further, he emphasized this shift in medical education reflects evolving social demands and expectations of medicine graduates. In the past, a physician was the sole decision-maker in patient care; today, however, healthcare is delivered by teams of physicians.
“The type of physician that society will be expecting and will be supporting has changed [compared to] a decade ago, and that’s the type of physician we want, and we will graduate,” said Tithecott.
The new competency-based model will be implemented over the next few years, while being evaluated by a continuous quality improvement process.