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Perspectives: Pathways and Practices to Educational Scholarship

Mary Lee

Associate Provost
Tufts University

How would you describe your career path? Was the educational scholarship purposeful? What people, events, and activities have contributed to your professional success?

When I started my career over twenty years ago, I knew that I wanted to take good care of patients and teach clinical medicine. But, who knew what an education dean was, never mind a provost?! What evolved was a decade of individual opportunities offered by my department chair, division chief, senior faculty, and dean that I pursued out of interest without a master plan. These ranged from developing new teaching programs, to committee memberships, to chairing a strategic educational task force. My decision to frame the task force report as an action plan led to my being invited to implement that plan as a newly created dean for educational affairs. Over the next decade, I experienced intense on-the-job learning in administration, curriculum development and management, faculty development, evaluation, and educational scholarship. Drawing from Deb Simpson’s work, Tufts developed basic teaching portfolios for a new clinician-educator track through which I was promoted. Attending Kelley Skeff’s Stanford Faculty Development Program (in 1991), AAMC’s Executive Development Program, and AAMC’s Group on Educational Advancement (GEA) meetings were crucial for skill building, learning about what I needed to learn, and networking with other education-focused faculty. As associate provost, I now oversee University-level initiatives in innovative faculty development and education, including global health and the application of educational technology to teaching, learning, and research.

What advice do you have for faculty who seek advancement through educational scholarship in this decade? How should they work with existing promotion and tenure processes?

Now that there actually are clinician educator tracks at most schools, learn what your promotion criteria are, seek mentors both within and outside your institution who understand educational scholarship and promotions, create a personal timeline with clear goals including targeting educational grants and writing about your work. But don’t shy away from serendipitous opportunities—follow your passions and it will be hard to go wrong.

Karen Wendelberger-Marcdante, M.D.

Professor and Vice Chair of Education
Medical College of Wisconsin

How would you describe your career path? Was the educational scholarship purposeful? What people, events, and activities have contributed to your professional success?

As a chief resident at the Medical College of Wisconsin, I met my mentor, Deb Simpson and was able to focus on my long time interest in teaching and helping others learn more effectively.

Through participation in several fellowship programs focused on education and educational research, I met a variety of outstanding role models and future collaborators (Louise Arnold, Larry Gruppen, and David Irby to name a few). These individuals helped me learn the pedagogy behind medical education. Each time I was involved, I gained more insight and interest into how teachers teach and how learners learn. I continue to be fascinated by the possibilities of improving how we teach and learn while providing outstanding clinical care and developing medical expertise.

What advice do you have for faculty who seek advancement through educational scholarship in this decade? How should they work with existing promotion and tenure processes?

The first step in any career planning is to establish clear goals. Taking the time to focus on your own teaching skills and educational abilities must be a component of anyone's work life who wants to gain expertise as an educator. Attending conferences focused on education provides an avenue for gaining knowledge as well as developing networks of colleagues and collaborators. So, if you have your goals in mind, prepare yourself through available coursework, activities, and meetings, find mentors and collaborators who share your passions and design your personal work to have measurable outcomes of your goals, and then you are well on your way to a career in educational scholarship.

To be promoted you must align your passions and goals with those of the organization. Keeping track of outcomes can help you demonstrate the value of education and of your work. It is the quality of this evidence that most often raises the awareness of promotion and tenure committees. It is never enough to document how busy you are in education; you must show them the impact that your work has in meeting the missions of the school. Be persistent. I believe that every medical school must ultimately recognize that educators are crucial to their long term success.

James Wooliscroft, M.D.

Dean
University of Michigan

How would you describe your career path? Was the educational scholarship purposeful? What people, events, and activities have contributed to your professional success?

Within a few months of joining the faculty I was appointed Director for our clinical skills course. This led me to ask questions such as: Why are we teaching this material? Does it actually lead to better patient care? Is there a better way to present content to enhance learning? How do we best assess and measure competency? How do physicians progress from novice to master and how might this progression be facilitated?

Fortunately, the University of Michigan has a Department of Medical Education and faculty from this department welcomed the opportunity to study such questions. We developed a research group that included Ph.D. and Ed.D. trained personnel who brought their experimental design, statistical, and content knowledge to the questions that we were studying. Through our weekly “laboratory meetings” I learned from great experimentalists that rigorous design in educational research was not only possible but necessary and from content experts outside of medicine that disciplines such as cognition and educational psychology provided valuable insight into the problems we were studying. These experiences shaped my views on educational research and scholarship.

While many of my views on scholarship were formed by my research experiences, I was also strongly influenced by Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered. Broadening the concept of scholarship to include contributions beyond discovery research is important. However, I remain firm in my belief that methodological rigor and an understanding of the work’s place in the body of educational scholarship is necessary to inform the broader community and contribute to moving the field forward.

What advice do you have for faculty who seek advancement through educational scholarship in this decade? How should they work with existing promotion and tenure processes?

My advice to faculty interested in pursuing this career pathway is that it is an important and worthy focus for one’s professional career. I also recommend that faculty avail themselves of the opportunities to develop their expertise by obtaining a postgraduate degree (e.g., D.P.H., Ph.D., Ed.D., or Masters) in medical education as such preparation is important. Also, assembling a “research team” including experts from education and related disciplines is very helpful.

In regards to promotion and tenure, understanding the particulars of their medical school is the first step. Generally, there is a requirement for dissemination which speaks to journal articles, electronic publications, visiting professorships and similar presentations. If national or international recognition comprise part of the requirements, present your work at the AAMC annual meetings at the Research in Medical Education (RIME) sessions and similar venues. Generally, it is more valuable to focus your effort on meeting your school's criteria rather than expecting the school to change their requirements for you.

Faculty Vitae

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To inquire about updates to information published in Faculty Vitae, please e-mail Valarie Clark at vclark@aamc.org.

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