A Systematic Approach to Working With Medical Learners in Difficulty: A Faculty Development Workshop

MedEdPORTAL. 2020 Jan 31;16:10872. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10872.


Introduction: For medical educators, applying a systematic approach to working with struggling learners (learners in difficulty) can improve faculty success and satisfaction with the remediation process. Use of the familiar SOAP diagnostic framework can ensure that faculty develop a thorough differential diagnosis and target their interventions to address underlying issues affecting learner success.

Methods: We developed a workshop to teach medical education faculty essential skills for supporting learners in difficulty. Teaching methods included didactic presentation, large-group discussion, and small-group work with role-plays. Over three 2-hour sessions, participants learned to assess a learner in difficulty, develop an initial remediation plan, and evaluate their learning system with the goal of improving support to learners in difficulty. Evaluation included pre- and postsession assessment of learner self-perceived confidence and skill with working with struggling learners, as well as brief postsession evaluation.

Results: Ninety-nine faculty participated in the Learners in Difficulty workshop over 7 years. Participants' overall rating of the workshop was 4.9 (1 = poor, 5 = outstanding). Pre- and postworkshop evaluation showed a statistically significant increase in perceived self-confidence to "Meet the needs of a struggling learner," from an average of 4.4 to 7.6 on a 10-point scale (mean Δ = 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 2.6-3.8; p < .001).

Discussion: This workshop provides a stepwise approach to working with learners in difficulty and assessing participants' educational systems to identify strengths and weaknesses. Evaluations indicated participants felt more confident in their ability to engage in this topic following completion of the workshop.

Keywords: Case-Based Learning; Faculty Development; Learners in Difficulty; Remediation.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical
  • Educational Measurement / standards*
  • Faculty, Medical / education*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Problem Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires