Why radiology educators should embrace new teaching methods

When it comes to radiology education, as the old song goes, the times they are a-changin’. But is the industry ready to adapt to these changes? According to a new analysis published in Academic Radiology, educators should be willing to update their teaching methods when necessary to reach future generations of radiologists.  

“It is clear that the new generation of learners is asking for things that prior generations of teachers may not be prepared to provide,” wrote author Kitt Shaffer, MD, PhD, from the department of radiology at Boston Medical Center. “The days of passive didactic delivery of information in a large auditorium are over, whether we oldsters know it or not. The only reason this method is still used so extensively in Continuing Medical Education is probably due to the average age of the audience, and because the old way of teaching is so easy to arrange.”

The way testing is often carried out in radiology now, Shaffer explained, does trainees a disservice. They know what is expected—memorize lists out of textbooks, learn every inch of the study guide—so they don’t care as much about attending lectures or actual interaction. Academic radiologists, she added, should pay more attention to some of the alternative teaching methods gaining popularity.

“In the modern world of asynchronous preparation and focus on active learning for in-person interactions, we can do better,” Shaffer wrote. “In order to best serve our trainees, we need to fulfill both of their needs—to enable them to pass their credentialing exam, but also to be able to apply that knowledge in complex, real world situations.”

Citing prior research on modern teaching methods in radiology, Shaffer listed a few by name—audience response systems, distance-learning methods, flipped classrooms, active learning—that today’s educators should know about. These techniques do require more from the educators themselves, including additional preparation and “flexibility to respond to questions,” but Shaffer noted that the methods have also been found to be quite successful.

“The digital natives that make up our trainees are no longer interested in learning from textbooks alone, or watching digital slide presentations in a passive way during conferences,” Shaffer concluded. “They expect to be continuously connected and stimulated to participate. We owe it to them to provide education in a way that will engage them fully. While we should not allow technology to drive pedagogy, we as educators must embrace change and be willing to try something new.”