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Self-teaching modules developed for medical students (3/20/98)

Can medical students teach themselves?

Ron Paque, PhD, thinks so. Dr. Paque, associate professor of microbiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is one of a growing number of faculty who have developed self-instructional modules to help students learn confusing or complex portions of their courses.

"Because of the large amount of dollars now required to teach and the exploding amount of knowledge, we have had to come up with new ways to transmit information to students. There is so much information being developed all the time," Dr. Paque says.

"The National Educational Association in Washington did multiple studies proving that students could, if their needs could somehow be anticipated, do more to instruct themselves," Dr. Paque says. "The emphasis should be placed on basic education."

Dr. Paque's self-instructional modules are based upon questions asked by his students from past years. He has arranged those questions in sequence, so concepts are learned in orderly fashion. Answers to the questions plus additional study questions are also provided.

"This self-instructional material has been put in a framework for transmitting a conceptual fund of knowledge in a very tightly organized, compartmentalized way," Dr. Paque

says. "It is possible to use these modules in three ways: as supplementary material for the textbook, in conjunction with a lecture series or, perhaps, electronic communication on a computer."

Dr. Paque teaches immunological hypersensitivity, or allergic diseases. "Over the years I've listened to the same questions, again and again, from my students," Dr. Paque says. "During the early years I changed my lecture outlines and notes to adapt to these questions. However, this wasn't the complete answer. Students still repeated some of the same questions."

Dr. Paque received encouragement from Sanford A. Miller, PhD, dean of the graduate school of biomedical sciences, and from John H. Littlefield, PhD, director of the division of educational research and development.

"As the science and technology of medicine continues to expand, the need for new approaches to the teaching of students in the health professions is essential," says Dr. Miller. "The student must become a full partner in the process. Dr. Paque's contribution is consistent with the attempt to bring change to the classroom."

"Classrooms of the future may be virtual in the sense that students will rarely all be present at one geographical location or even at one point in time," says Dr. Littlefield.

"Instructional materials such as Dr. Paque's modules give students great flexibility in deciding where and when they will learn. By using frequently asked questions, Dr. Paque's modules teach hypersensitivity from a student's perspective instead of a microbiologist's perspective."

The self-instructional materials have been reviewed by both first and second-year medical students. "We've taken the students' criticisms and feedback and altered the modules, so they have been improved and field-tested," Dr. Paque says. "We have also added graphics and diagrams, at the request of the students."

In addition to teaching modules, an integrated curriculum is being planned and implemented for future Health Science Center medical students.

Contact: Jan Elkins (210) 567-2570