Learning outcomes again

by reestheskin on 18/11/2015

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Being able to receive anonymous feedback is good, although sometimes you think otherwise. But these comments from an (anonymous) student who had gone through our unit made me smile and, if I only knew their name, I would drop her or him an email, saying, ‘thank you’. Some students know more than many medical educationalists.

The student wrote:

“Although there is a lot of material to cover, knowing exactly how much detail is required on each disease is much more useful than the unhelpful ‘disease list’ learning outcomes we are often given”.

Well, the student has exposed the kernel of the problem that I have written about before, using some writings on Cartography from BorgesMost Many lists of learning outcomes in clinical medicine do not work. They are psychologically naive, and represent cargo-cult like thinking. They can work in many domains (e.g. you must be able to solve simple quadratic equations; you must be able to recognise different patterns of Mendelian inheritance based on examination of a kindred), but in many clinical areas, where formalisation of knowledge structures is poor, they are largely a facade. If you want to know ‘why’ go and read Claude Shannon on Information Theory. None of what I say implies that you shouldn’t let students know what you expect from them, indeed, as currently practised many learning outcomes mislead and hinder learning.