Purpose: We describe the use of standardised students (SSs) in interdisciplinary faculty development programmes to improve clinical teaching skills. Standardised students are actual health professions students who are trained to portray a prototypical teaching challenge consistently across many encounters with different faculty participants.
Methods: The faculty development programmes described focused on the skills of providing feedback and brief clinical teaching. At the beginning of each session, each participant was videotaped in encounters with 2 different SSs. Using microteaching (an instructional method in which learners view short segments of their own videotaped performance and discuss the tapes with a facilitator, consultant or other workshop participants), each group of participants and instructors reviewed the tapes and reflected on the encounters, providing immediate feedback to participants and modelling different approaches to the same teaching problem. The same process was repeated with more complicated scenarios after 2 weeks and again after 6 months offering reinforcement, further practice and more sophisticated development of the strategies learned. Participants completed post-session evaluations and a follow-up telephone survey.
Results: A total of 36 faculty members from the colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing participated in workshops in 2000-01. The workshops were rated as highly relevant to participants' teaching, and most participants reported that they had learned a great deal. Participants most appreciated reviewing the videotaped interactions, the feedback they received, the interactions with their colleagues, the interdisciplinary nature of the groups and the practical focus of the workshops.
Conclusions: Standardised students provide a high fidelity, low risk, simulated environment in which faculty can reflect on and experiment with new teaching behaviours. Such encounters can enhance the effectiveness and impact of faculty development programmes to improve clinical teaching skills.