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VCU School of Medicine

Welcome to VCU School of Medicine

Curriculum Under Construction

Welcome to Curriculum Under Construction

Target start date: 2013

The School of Medicine’s curriculum is being redesigned. To learn more about this exciting process, view Dr. Wood's presentation, A Curriculum for the Next Millennium.


During the summer of 2008, three faculty and two student focus groups were conducted. The following questions were asked:

  • What Do We Value as Educational Outcomes for Students?
  • How Might We Best Educate Students?
  • How Do We Assess Student Performance to Determine Whether Faculty Are Teaching Toward the Valued Outcomes?

The results represent the key themes pulled from these discussion via qualitative analysis techniques.

Curriculum Under Construction [PowerPoint]

December 14, 2009
Governor Tim Kaine and university officials unveil renderings of the new VCU School of Medicine Education Building. Read more >


Ability to identify, analyze, synthesize, and assess credibility of relevant information

  • Introduce bioinformatics early in the curriculum and teach students research methodology, including how to identify available resources; integrate this throughout all courses and clerkships with students working in small groups to apply the elements of research design in assessing the credibility of a basic science, clinical and translational research; include monthly seminars on health policy and the health care system; students should demonstrate that they can transfer information and develop new resources; mastery should be demonstrated in a required research experience in the M4 year.
  • Rely upon core reference textbooks; employ more critical thinking questions on examinations; critically analyze negative outcomes with virtual and real patients.

Be lifelong learners with intellectual curiosity

    • Only have a core group of dedicated educators; treat teaching as a valuable commodity; have good teachers teach rather than experts in their field; have a core group of master teachers and provide them with the necessary resources; have teachers who are trained to teach and are enthusiastic; recruit master teachers; compensate faculty to develop the curriculum; have faculty present their research in special seminars.

  • Provide medical school mentors; create a learner-centered environment; create special tracks of interest (e.g., Honors in Genetics); have students work in small groups that begin with a problem that evolves over the year with faculty mentor as a "fly on the wall" and later present this to larger group.
  • Survey residency program directors to assess if graduates have achieved, and are continuing to achieve, competency outcomes as defined by the focus groups.

Ability to integrate scientific foundations of medicine

  • Clinical scenarios should drive the quest for basic science knowledge; start lessons with a clinical case and have students analyze and apply what they have learned in class; center the curriculum around patient presentations and complaints; emphasize the fundamentals with clinical relevance; build on these fundamentals and clinically apply the information progressively from M1 through M4 (move from reporter function to higher level processor); use multidisciplinary teaching with faculty teams in small groups; basic science topics should be immediately followed by the clinical counterpart (a systems based curriculum that integrates the material in the preclinical years).
  • Assessments should be based on actual clinical experiences; multiple choice questions should be based on clinical scenarios; there should be fewer examinations and they should require integration across disciplines; there should be cumulative examinations at the end of each year.

Ability to self-assess learning needs (reflective practice)

  • At the time of matriculation, students should be given assessments to help them understand how they think (metacognition) and how they learn; students should develop individually based learning plans with this information; faculty should respect the way each individual learns in preparing educational material.
  • There should be questions for students to answer each day; practice quizzes should be available in every the course.

Ability to function in systems and to teach each other (teams)

  • Students should be assigned to learning teams with a mixture of students who exhibit difference learning styles; the learning teams should be assigned a cohort of teachers to work with them across the four years of the curriculum; teams should actively problem solve using concepts learned in class and applied to novel situations; students should teach each other and provide feedback; students should re-teach information to other students to thoroughly understand the concepts; students should be assessed on their teaching competencies; students should be assessed as to their ability to teach patients; students should shadow established educators; all M4’s should be required to assist in teaching some component of the pre-clinical curriculum; students should serve as standardized patients.

Demonstrate competence (outcomes)

  • Assessments should reflect the desired outcomes; multiple assessment tools should be used, including “360 evaluation”; students should keep portfolios that demonstrate increasing mastery; there should be clinical application of information in a progressive fashion from the M1 to the M4 years moving from a reporter function to a higher level processor; emphasis should be on the retention and application of fundamental knowledge that is tested with comprehensive examinations; competencies should be assessed on a pass/fail system.

Be active learners

  • Less lecturing and more break-out groups with discussion; split sessions between lecture and active learning exercises; have students participate in exercises in class to relate concepts; have students work on problems in small groups; have students use information learned in class to diagnose and manage a virtual patient; stop powerpoint abuse and dependence; reemphasize marker board teaching-slows down teaching to a point where concepts may be comprehended; use more simulations and on line learning at a self-directed pace; use textbooks and resources more and syllabus less.
  • Be able to apply information in novel situations; provide opportunities for independent problem solving; in lessons ask more than tell; utilize oral examinations, more OSCE’s, short answer and essay on examinations; ask more thoughtful questions on multiple choice examinations; use simulated patients to assess autonomy of learning; see how well students use resources to research a question or topic.


Emotional intelligence, able to deal with the whole patient, a love for the profession

Students should be assessed in terms of emotional, cognitive and behavioral domains; vignettes and simulated videos should be used to assess ethical and moral dilemmas; the behavioral and social context should be integrated into every course and clerkship; students should be provided with longitudinal experiences where they work with families throughout the four years of medical school; students should be provided with multiple opportunities for community based service learning.

Abraham Flexner was a firm believer that education should be marked by small classes, personal attention, and hands on teaching.

One of his fiercest critiques focused on the lecture mode, which enabled colleges to "handle cheaply by wholesale a large body of students that would be otherwise unmanageable and [to give] the lecturer time for research." The American College, 1908.

Native American Proverb

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand.