EDST5126 Week 6: Changing learning environments

The main learning institution I am involved with (the College of Physicians) has its main physical location in Sydney…..but unlike most HE institutions, there is very minimal teaching which actually takes place here – it is HQ for administrative. The college’s teaching is disseminated and occurs in hospital and other health settings. In my blog post this week, I explored other elements of the teaching and learning environment and took significant liberty with the term “environment”. I concluded that, despite the lack of physical learning environments, there are a lot of aspects of the other aspects of the “learning environment” that could be enhanced.


Environment Etymology 

My trusty online etymology dictionary tells me that environment is “a state of being environed” which is “the state of of conditions in which a person or thing lives” (from online etymology dictionary).

In subject EDST5122, one assessment task was to explore our own educational philosoph. My conceptualisation was of an educational tree which includes the elements and processes that influence an individual’s learning, metaphorically related to the environmental and other influences on a tree’s growth.

  1. Parker educational tree

These include:

  • Learning theories and frameworks
  • Global trends
  • Peers – the social learnign environment
  • Teachers – style, approach
  • Physical environment
  • Virtual environment
  • Political environment
  • Financial environment
  • Cultural environment
  • Educational resources such as equipment, technology, expertise


Weekly task – case study in educational environment

Identify strengths and weaknesses in your chose institution’s physical learning and teaching spaces. What possible changes to physical and/ or virtual spaces within the institutional resource constraints could improve student learning experiences? What planning should be considered for longer term improvements in your institution? 


  • Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine – specialist medical training faculty under the auspices of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
  • 4 year training program consisting of 8 six month terms
  • Knowledge / skills are a combination of codified and tacit, including professional competencies
  • Educational model: Vocational training which incorporates elements of cognitive and traditional apprenticeships. Very limited whole group teaching –  only a monthly synchronous online two hour teaching session.
  • Approximately 250 trainees spread across metropolitan, regional and rural setting
Issue Observation Advantages Disadvantages Comment / suggestion
Geography Great diversity of clinical settings occupy the vast majority of “teaching and learning spaces”. ·       Lessons learnt from being exposed to a wide variety of settings could advantage all trainees ·       Other than ensuring minimum standards for site accreditation, difficult to standardise teaching environments 1.     Review of accreditation standards for sites in the light of rise of technology in medical education

2.     Capitalise on diversity of clinical experiences through informal sharing of experiences / insights by trainees

Teachers Teaching conducted on a volunteer basis by clinical supervisors. Faculty employs no educators ·       Clinicians have real world authentic experience, skills and knowledge ·       Educators have no formal training in education, potentially disadvantaging trainees.

·       The bulk of teaching is conducted by an enthusiastic minority. Risk of burnout

3.     Educational up skilling of educators

4.     Develop educational special interest group of supervisors with an interest in teaching

Technology education gap between supervisors and trainees, resulting in mismatch of knowledge / experience / comfort with using technology to support teaching. ·       Teachers can be taught by students ·       If new technology is rolled out, supervisors may be unable to support their trainees in optimally using this technology 5.     Develop pathways to support supervisors as new technology is introduced.
Current learning environments and activities Trainees have informal social media groups not under the auspices of the institution Greater freedom in self-expression away from the watchful eye of “big brother” No governance or moderation of behaviour / content 6.     With input from trainees, develop a suitably moderated and functional means of trainee interaction
Monthly bi-national training program – non compulsory two hour monthly teaching in virtual environment using “Vidyo” platform funning from February to November with a program which runs over three years. Trainees can attend at RACP offices in capital cities or via their own computer or asynchronously via recorded presentations ·       Didactic presentations

·       Frequent technology issues

·       No pre-set reading material

·       No available pre-set learning objectives

·       Limited interaction

Online training portal Some excellent resources available ·       Limited knowledge of these resources 8.     Marketing strategy needed
Online modules developed by the college Some excellent modules available ·       There doesn’t appear to be a structured plan with the modules that are appearing.

·       Limited knowledge of online learning opportunities amongst trainees and fellows. No Rehabilitaiton medicine specific modules. Unkow

9.     Evaluate effectiveness

10.  Develop further modules, having surveyed members regarding need

The way forward: 

Given the geographical distribution of training, there needs to be s strong focus on

  1. Cataloguing current online learning environments and resources
  2. Establishing where there are defects between current teaching and future needs
  3. Evaluating research, trends and directions in post-graduate medical education internationally to come up with evidence based recommendations
  4. Developing a priority list of actions and a plan for implementation

Learning environments in medical education – what does the literature say?

A brief scan of the literature identified the increasing role of the evolving eLearning environment as a key issue in meducation education with questions such as: how can materials be standardised? What about issues of confidentiality? Can “hidden tacit facets of physician education” (Hafler, et al, 2011, p. 440) be satisfactorily taught via eLearning? (Ruiz, Minzer, & Leipzig, 2006).

I found this article by Gordon et al (2000) very relevant to my particular learning setting. They performed a SWOT analysis of clinical teaching environments and came up with several suggestions for improvement and for focusing future work, and I was pleased to see that these were consistent with the suggestions I had come up with to address identified issues.


  • Gordon, J., Hazlett, C., Ten Cate, O., Mann, K., Kilminster, S., Prince, K., … & Newble, D. (2000). Strategic planning in medical education: enhancing the learning environment for students in clinical settings. Medical Education, 34(10), 841-850.
  • Hafler, J. P., Ownby, A. R., Thompson, B. M., Fasser, C. E., Grigsby, K., Haidet, P., … & Hafferty, F. W. (2011). Decoding the learning environment of medical education: a hidden curriculum perspective for faculty development. Academic Medicine, 86(4), 440-444.
  • Ruiz, J. G., Mintzer, M. J., & Leipzig, R. M. (2006). The impact of e-learning in medical education. Academic medicine, 81(3), 207-212.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s