Medical education reimagined – the power of student-faculty partnership

Successful happy group of students learning software engineering and business during presentation

In the dynamic landscape of higher education, student-staff collaborations for curriculum design and development improve both the outcome (our curriculum) and process (the way we get there).  When done well, student-faculty partnerships provide the conditions for teaching and learning to be informed by both students’ rich lived-experiences and the disciplinary and pedagogical expertise of staff. This synergy democratises the educational process by involving students as co-designers, collaborators, and partners. This ensures that the curriculum remains responsive to the evolving demands of our student needs and the professional world and society that universities and students go on to shape and influence. As Sydney’s teaching strategy focuses on making students ‘citizens in their own learning’ partnership is one way to meet this.

As Sydney’s teaching strategy focuses on making students ‘citizens in their own learning’ partnership is one way to meet this.

As part of the 4-year graduate-entry MD Program students in their third year must complete a significant research project. To encourage research and evaluation projects in medical education specific to the MD curriculum, our team acquired an Umbrella Ethics Approval to facilitate medical education academics and students to work collaboratively on education projects. Having an ethics approval ensures that these research projects rigorous enough for publication and the student researchers attain course credit and research skills. Overall, this has a marked benefit for the student researchers, staff, the MD Program and future MD students.

In student partnership it is important that students are recognised for their work and that the work that they do is meaningful and developmental. While education projects outside the regular curriculum might offer rewards like gift cards, payment, or certificates, incorporating these partnership into the curriculum itself can be a more effective way of embedding partnership into the everyday ways in which we teach. This can give students academic credit while developing valuable skills in research, curriculum design, and evaluation. Such an approach integrates partnerships into quality teaching and learning practices. Since the relaunch of the MD project in the new medical curriculum in 2022, students and faculty have partnered on ~550 projects in any area of medicine and health.

Since 2022 students and staff have partnered on over 550 projects across areas in medicine and health.

Four case studies on partnership

Below we highlight four case studies from this that illustrate the breadth of ways that we have used student partnership in medical education projects. These are only some of the projects running under this initiative, which is expanding in 2024.

Case 1: Video-based learning for biomedical science research

The biomedical science methods curriculum was enhanced with new video resources, designed specifically for medical students. This involved a critical review of existing materials, ensuring relevance and breadth of content. The student team developed a video on DNA technology tailored for medical students, complete with a self-assessment quiz.  This is now deployed as an online teaching resource for Year 2 students.

Case 2: Ethics curriculum review

The medical ethics curriculum is undergoing a comprehensive review. The student team conducted student surveys and faculty interviews, uncovering gaps such as insufficient explicit instruction, inadequate space in the curriculum, and poor cross-level reinforcement of principles. They found that students preferred case-based teaching methods for this type of content. These findings are now informing the revision of the ethics curriculum for the program.

Case 3: Online Immunology content

The Online Foundational Knowledge course, catering to new post-graduate medical students, was reviewed and the student partner has updated its immunology module based on feedback from Year 1 and 2 students. Challenges with this content were identified and led to the incorporation of active learning tools such as animations, concept maps, and test questions, all developed by the student partner. The enhanced immunology lesson is now available for the incoming Year 1 cohort.

Case 4: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) multimedia module

To address the lack of early medical imaging education, this student team created a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) multimedia module, detailing its physics, clinical applications, and patient experience, supplemented by hospital imaging unit research.  The module, which includes text, videos, and a quiz, is available online as a teaching resource suitable for junior medical student education.

What was it like for staff and students? 

This initiative has increased engagement and collaboration between students and academics to evaluate and improve the MD Program curriculum and resources. Students have learned about how the curriculum is designed and developed, along with in-depth methods of education research and teaching strategies. Academic staff have also benefitted, as they can work on curriculum projects that weren’t possible before, and they have learned from students’ perspectives.

being part of a curriculum review project let me better appreciate the competing factors that influence a curriculum’s design, and how the content I have been taught at medical school fits into my overall development as a doctor.” (MD student)

having the ethics approval already in place was a huge workload reduction, which meant I could feasibly supervise this MD student project” (Academic staff)

Top tips and take-aways

If you are interested in student-partnership embedded into credit-bearing projects, there are a few things to remember:

  • Remember that student-faculty partnerships involve respect, reciprocity and responsibility (Cook-Sather et al 2014)
  • Find ways to enable these partnerships. In our initiative an Umbrella Ethics approval reduces the ethics approval “hurdle” for academic staff.
  • Students get credit for their work and contribute to the development of the program, for future cohorts.

If you would like more information, please get in touch with us if you would like more info: [email protected]

Contributors: MD Project Supervisors: Joanne Hart, Rajneesh Kaur, Sally Ayesa, Kylie Shaddock, Rosa Howard, Claire Hooker; MD Project Umbrella Ethics Team: Karen Scott, Naomi Staples, Annette Burgess, Richmond Jeremy, Sally Middleton; Student Partners: Bella Kontorovich, Matthew Cheung, Robert Chen, Paul Chong, Patrick Pisel, Walid Azizi, Haylee Shaw, Christian Whiteley, Lochlann Trinh, Gerald Penaflor

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