A recent report outlined the top ethics issues students should learn, but what are the best practices for teaching students these issues? Educators may have more options than you think. Read on for an expert-approved list of teaching methods and ideas.

“There is no single, best pedagogical approach for teaching medical ethics and professionalism. Learning styles and institutional resources vary, so teaching methods need to be flexible and varied to reflect this diversity,” said authors of the Romanell Report on ethics education, recently published in Academic Medicine.

To mitigate this issue, the report urges educators to consider approaches to teaching ethics that transcend basic instruction. Here are some effective methods that are becoming more common in medical school:

  • A “flipped classroom” approach. Educators can “flip” the traditional class structure by offering content online. This allows students to watch lectures on their own and saves time for discussion and application of materials in class, the report authors said.
  • Teaching the patient perspective. Presenting patient perspectives can help “illuminate issues of diversity” and “address the evolution of different worldviews on health and healing,” the report said. Here are some innovative ways schools already have helped students learn about diverse patient perspectives.
  • Traditional lecture. This approach still is helpful, especially when discussing issues that lend themselves to various perspectives. For instance, educators can lecture on such topics as “sensitivity and responsiveness to a diverse patient population,” one of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s professional sub-competencies. Adding clinical cases or “trigger tapes” to lectures also can spark lively debate, according to the report.
  • Exploring non-medical disciplines. “Whenever possible, medical ethics and professionalism instruction should involve collaboration among faculty from different disciplines.” This reinforces a team approach in clinical practice. In recent years, schools have incorporated applied art methods, such as improvisational theater exercises, comic drawings and creative writing in ethics education, according to the report.
  • Writing it out. Invite learners to write reflective narratives about potential ethical cases they may encounter. Using this kind of “learner-driven” approach can help educators “move learners from knowledge acquisition and skills development to behavior change in which excellent patient care is the goal,” the report authors said.

Additional ethics resources for physicians in training

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