Managing Curricular Content

Looking at the course website and wondering where to start?

First of all, realize how fortunate you are to live in a time period where you could spend a lifetime learning everything there is to know about the cell cycle (I know, my husband studies mitosis and has a laboratory on the 6th floor of Pinn Hall where you could spend the summer doing research…but I digress)… and LET IT GO. You will learn the cell cycle and all of its regulation in enough detail to understand common drug targets for cancer treatments but that, for now, is it. You will need to place strict limits on yourself and not dive down any rabbit holes when studying.

What successful students share in common is that- they are skilled in knowing what they need to know, and spending their time appropriately. The good news is that this is a “skill” and thus can be acquired- the same what you can acquire muscle tone- application and practice. Your mantra should not be “know everything” but rather ask “what is important?”. Students that struggle at the start of medical school usually do so because they over-do things ie details.  It’s a hard transition for some as many of your peers got here because they never left an “I” undotted or a “t” uncrossed. And the lists of Learning Objectives have been the undoing of many a good student… so here is the second realization of the day…. Not all learning objectives are created equal. Meaning that some are more important than others, some will be tested, others not. The Learning Objectives (Los) are there to guide you and provide you with a complete list of information for the topic taught. However, a common mistake for students to make (especially on the class Google doc) is to have the same amount of lengthy information for EACH LO.

Speaking as a faculty member that teaches extensively in the pre-clerkship curriculum, I will tell you that some of my Los can be covered in a sentence whereas others require an entire page. So how to know when the former vs. the latter is required? Simple… how would you know what to know if the list of LOs was not provided?  In fact, in the old curriculum, we covered a lot of the same material albeit in a different sequence and provided NO LOs. So how did those medical students pass their exams? In fact, you probably have been in many classes with no lists of LOs.  In that situation, you came to class (and/ or read the text/ handouts), saw what was emphasized in class by the instructor and concentrated on that. It is the same filter that you should use for the LOs! If there is time, of course, go back ad look at all the nit-picky details, but do not start by vowing to leave any nit-picky detail unturned.

So, here we go:

  1. glasses on desk with papers and penSet priorities. Look at the Weekly Overview and quickly determine what has to be done before and after class (see where points are assigned and where there is required pre-work for an in-class activity).
  2. Try to touch everything. Even if it is just for 5 mins, it is better to scan and determine what resources may be helpful rather than diving deep on a few things and never looking at others. This latter will cause you to miss something important.
  3. Make a schedule. Align the must-dos and deadlines with your available time.
  4. Set time limits on each to-do. Yes, you can spend 3 hours on Glycolysis, but don’t’. Have a strict stop time that you stick to and move on to the next thing. If this panics you, have a make up time built in to your schedule every couple of days where you can come back to unfinished tasks.
  5. Remember that small amounts of time can be productive too. Waiting until you have large blocks of unscheduled time to tackle things may result in them staying undone.

— Selina Noramly, PhD



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