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Learning Methods

In accordance with the principles above, a wide variety of learning methods are used, based as much as possible on the principle of active adult learning.

In the current phase of development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), lectures have become less significant as a source of information. In our context, they are meant as a guide to personal study and a tool to its organization. They are also an important opportunity for the lecturer to present his or her professional and scientific experience, becoming the student’s partner in the learning-teaching process. New concepts are also learned through other teaching methods (see PBL), and the number of hours for lectures and other formal lessons, especially in the clinical years, is lower than in traditional medical degree programs.
Seminars – Medicine and Society
Seminars are an important feature of our course. They are held outside the regular weekly schedule and are authoritative lectures by eminent scientists or doctors on various subjects, from unique research, to new concepts in biology, errors in medicine, multi-ethnic societies, non-conventional treatment, pharmaceutical companies, medicine and finance, and drug discovery. They are intended to complete the intellectual and cultural education of students and make them aware of topics usually considered marginal in the medical curriculum.
Scientific conferences
These are short conferences of about an hour organized in collaboration with the Scientific Division on subjects of interest appropriate to the students’ level of knowledge. They are intended to train students in the scientific dimension of modern medicine.
Grand Rounds
This is the presentation of a clinical case by one of the doctors supported by an expert moderator. The discussion is aimed at bringing out difficult aspects of a case and comparing different diagnostic, therapeutic, and patient management strategies.
Meeting with the expert
Lectures on special topics delivered by visiting experts.
Problem Based Learning (PBL)
Problem Based Learning (PBL) has been identified as a way to facilitate the development of critical reflection and self-directed learning. After brief training on the PBL method, students, assisted by a tutor and organized into groups of six to eight, are given a written case and required to identify the issues underpinning the case, offering all the possible explanations for them, even if they have no previous formal related information. After identifying the problems, students study independently and meet again to share what they learned and suggest solutions. PBL helps students learn how to work together with the aim of understanding or solving a problem. The tutor becomes a facilitator of the learning process, assuming the role of coach rather than lecturer.
Discussion of clinical cases, case studies
This method is used during the clinical years and consists of the presentation and discussion of a case encountered by the students or tutor during clinical practice. Generally, the discussions aim to develop analytical and problem solving skills, and the ability to reflect on complex situations similar to those encountered in professional practice.
Skills lab
The skills laboratory is the place where students are trained in different professional skills and procedures using models and simulated patients. A skilled faculty member oversees the training during a series of workshops.
Communications lab
Communicating with patients and their relatives or other professionals is one of the most complex and important skills in medical practice. Teaching it is, therefore, of paramount importance at every medical school. There is a special class on this topic starting in the second year.
Briefing and debriefing
These methods are particularly useful in clinical learning. A briefing consists of a meeting with a tutor where a student is prepared for a clinical event (e.g. surgery), which is about to take place, and trained to evaluate and check the expected subjective and objective reactions. This phase includes a series of instructions on the context, roles and rules, and a discussion of the objectives to be achieved and the knowledge that the student hopes to acquire from the experience. Debriefing is a structured reflection on the experience, in both cognitive and emotional terms. This methodology enables the student to become accustomed to reasoning and reflecting on professional practice and stimulates new strategies to deal with experiences to come.
Formative feedback
Feedback is a point in the training process where the student receives an assessment from a tutor on his or her clinical performance, how it has evolved, and areas for improvement. The tutor monitors performance of a specific task by the student (during the examination of a patient, for example) and then discusses points of strength and weakness with the student. During feedback, the tutor encourages the student to reflect on experiences, link theory to practice, identify sources of learning and develop strategies for improvement.
Learning contracts
A learning contract is a written agreement between a tutor and a student defining educational goals, how they will be successfully accomplished and their achievement evaluated. The tutor and the student develop the contract collaboratively. It is based on the principle of adult learning that recognizes learners as partners in the student-teacher relationship rather than passive recipients. The use of learning contracts promotes self-direction and increases motivation since they emphasize the competencies learners themselves want to achieve. Participation in the process of identifying personal needs, objectives and resources, choosing strategies and assessing accomplishments helps learners to develop a sense of ownership and commitment to the plan.
Writing a journal and diaries
Students are encouraged to keep a private record of their reflections on the clinical experiences they have been exposed to. The introspection and reflection required in writing a journal boosts awareness, creativity, authentic thought, personal knowledge and problem solving. It also enhances empathy and the ability to consider the patient with respect.
A portfolio is a collection of materials chosen by a learner to demonstrate the breadth and quality of his current work, reflect on and plan his or her future progress. Each portfolio will be unique as it consists of an individual selection of work. It may include documentation of learning, a summary of what has been learned or an account of events. Portfolios are tools to stimulate learners to reflect on their learning experiences.
Medical humanities
Narrative contact is also required by the skilled doctor to deepen understanding of a patient’s experience. The ability to grasp an individual’s suffering and reflect on personal reactions to it are broadly considered fundamental for medical professionalism. These narrative competencies can be acquired through exposure to artistic work, literature, films, paintings, which are used as tools to stimulate reflection on topics presented from a social, psychological or human point of view. They are meant to underline the importance of empathy in interpersonal relationships.
Self-directed study
Self-directed study is absolutely essential in a learning-teaching program. Adequate time for this is provided in the annual coursework plan.
Clinical context experience
Short visits and experience in clinical or diagnostic divisions are intended to illustrate the direct relationships existing between basic sciences and their applications in clinical practice.