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The ESP Blog

Keeping ESP Up-To-Date and Relevant

Thank you for joining me on the Expert Skills Program (ESP) Blog!  My goal is to provide inspiration, information, and support for teachers.  A separate blog, "Mindful Learning - Developing Entrustable Skills," dedicated to students is also available at this website.

The Inspiration

I hope you are here to change the world, or at least the part of it we work in.  If not, I hope you hang around long enough to acquire the belief that you can.  I write these rather dramatic words as a recovering procrastinator who never thought beyond the next deadline and who only planned a semester, or a grant proposal, at a time.  But then I experienced the serendipity of a career detour as I served as the curriculum dean over 30 years ago.  I encountered a feeling that I had never experienced before, the sense of accomplishment from helping students undergo a life-changing transformation.  This is quite different from helping a student through a crisis period or assisting them in getting a problem solved.  I had several years of that type of experience and, while it was a nice feeling to help out, it didn't give me any greater satisfaction than having an experiment in the lab produce exciting results.  Instead, when you help a student become transformed you see them as a new improved version.  Happier, more self-confident, newly independent, and mentally healthy.  Now, to be clear, I didn't reach this stage of my development right away.  Instead, I reached it a little at a time.  I discovered and then applied.  That prepared me to discover more and to apply more.  I had no idea that my accidental insights that brought this transformation to one student at a time would take on a life of its own.  That feeling of a permanent, enabling transformation in a student who puts their trust in you is something I want to help all of you feel.  As I develop this blog, I want to bring a vision of a future that we can create, but we have to do it together.  It is a future that I have already observed piecemeal in my preliminary experiences and I know that by using what we all already have available to us, we can make a sweeping permanent, and very important, change.

Let me get more specific about changing our world.  First, I would like for you to consider the Nine Practical Principles of the Expert Skills Program listed below.  Then I would like to propose to a realistic future that adheres to these principles.

The Nine Practical Principles of ESP

1.    People who know how their brain learns are more successful.
2.    Learning strength is obtained by correcting weakness or limitation.
3.    Learning is a clinical skill; therefore clinical skill can be strengthened.
4.    Learning style is not a limitation; it is an insight.
5.    Awareness is a learning asset.
6.    Concept mapping (CM) is a collection of familiar active learning methods.
7.    Question analysis groups (QuAGs) correct misunderstandings and cement long term memory.
8.    Higher order thinking produces higher grades and uses time better.
9.    Emotion drives long-term learning during sleep.

While these principles require some clarification (which is found in the ESP videos) they reflect a set of attitudes and behaviors that are comparable to the 13 AAMC Core Entrustable Professional Activities for Entering Residency.  When compared with the description of the entrustable student, these principles show a strong correlation.  The ESP principles are directly related to 9 of the 13 CEPAs and the nature of the thinking that the ESP Principles develop relates to all of the CEPAs.  A simple examination of the description of the pre-entrustable student reveals all of the learning weaknesses (or are they opportunities?) that are addressed and corrected by the ESP. 

With this in mind, I envision a world where premedical students consider the ESP as a competitive edge for admission and they are all compelled to adopt it – in premedical education!  This would be the natural outcome of awareness in the premedical community that all medical schools placed a high value on ESP participation.  Continue to imagine for a moment not only the impact on our admissions process but on our teaching.  Imagine how it would be if every student that you interviewed was aware of themselves as self-directed learners?  In an interview with an ordinary applicant, if you ask, “How do you prefer to learn?” their answer will likely describe the activity and nothing more (comparable to a pre-entrustable student).  On the other hand, if you ask this to an ESP-educated applicant, their answer will involve the activity, how it balances weakness in their learning style, and which areas of their brain that are engaged.  You will be talking to a self-directed, entrustable learner who is ready to begin your curriculum!  Such applicants have insight into how they learn and that insight produces mindful learning. The concerns of the LCME about self-directed learning would essentially vanish because no student would want to be the one without the competitive advantage.  How do we establish this competitive edge mentality in premedical students?  By adopting it at the medical education level through institutional endorsement.  If they know that we value the principles of ESP, no medical student will want to be the one not doing it!

I will add more of my inspirations and also my responses to any of you who send me your own views and comments and questions.

The Information

Let’s begin with some housekeeping.
1.    As indicated in the email message you may have received from me, I will send an email notification when I have posted a new entry to the ESP Blog.  This mail list is opt-in.  If you didn’t receive an email announcement and wish to be added to the mail notification list just send me an email and I will confirm:
2.    Please send me comments to share with others.  These will work very well if you follow the style we use on the DR-ED listserv.  If you aren’t on this list you really should be.  Information on subscribing to DR-ED .  If you send the comments as you would like them displayed then I will only have to copy and paste.  One example of sharable information: one medical school has already assigned an anatomy professor to oversee their ESP program and they have established a Facebook page so they can communicate experiences and activities with each other.  I would only name the school with permission.

The Support

I will provide comments from my point of view as a teacher that will help in classroom teaching and in individual counseling or teaching.  I pick up tips and strategies on every speaking trip that I take and many of these can be shared.  I also read widely to stay up-to-date and I will share references and links that also could help.