SuccessTypes Medical Education Site
Expert Skill Is A Choice, Not A Talent
Talent gets you in the game, but it can't make you an expert.
It takes "deliberate practice" to become an expert.
The purpose of this site is to inspire and educate students on how to transform themselves
from receivers of information into skilled producers of their own knowledge. Likewise,
educators can be inspired to transform themselves from providers of information into
"catalysts" that help students discover and decide.
John Pelley, MBA, PhD
Professor, Department of Medical Education Former Assistant Dean for Admissions; Former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Former Chair of Biochemistry; Texas Tech University School of Medicine
The SuccessTypes Medical Education Site was established in 1998 as an academic project aimed at using personality type insights as a tool to personalize academic success. Much progress has been made since then by incorporating principles from brain research, sleep research, human performance research, and modern cognitive psychology to increase its effectiveness. An example of an application of these principles can be viewed in a presentation titled, "Bodybuilding for the Brain," at TEDxTexasTechUniversity.
“SuccessTypes” is plural to emphasize that no single learning style is superior and that multiple learning styles need to be mastered in medical educaton. A SuccessType is a medical student of any personality type who uses Deliberate Practice to strengthen their learning style. Since all types can take advantage of this approach, all types can upgrade their learning and thinking ability.
Psychologists often confuse personality "types" with personality "traits" because they live in a world that predominantly measures "traits" when studying behavior. However, trait and type are not the same:
- Trait is measured on a continuum so you can have more of it or less of it, e.g. motivation.
- Type is only a sorting concept that is a declaration of preference or "comfort zone" for thinking. You don't have more or less of a type.
The reliability and validity statistics for studying a trait cannot be applied to a type study. When type is treated as a trait, the thinking breaks down and becomes illogical. This misapplication of trait statistical analysis to personality type is at the root of many criticisms of type theory. Another source of criticism of personality type as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be traced to simply a lack of understanding of the concept (for more information, see the MBTI Manual, 1998, Consulting Psychologists Press).
Learning style is related to the personality types that have a preference for giving their attention to either facts and details or to relationships, i.e. the "big picture." Big picture types tend to use the front of their brain more and facts and details types tend to use the back of their brains more - but both types have the ability to use "all" areas of their cortex. It takes skill development to balance the less prefered region of the brain with the one that is preferred.
A medical education is not a checklist that is completed to prove you are educated. Nor does a medical curriculum "educate" you. Until you learn how to educate yourself by using the curriculum (and other resources), you will proceed through the medical curriculum as a victim. You can avoid being a victim and control your destiny by understanding your role in it. This understanding transforms you from a receiver into a producer.
Critical thinking skills develop best when students physically act on information that they are learning by writing or speaking or both. However, students often see themselves only as receivers of information, thus limiting their learning to passive reading of assigned learning.
- Receivers are victims. They are dependent on the exact wording of exam questions and, in medical practice, on each patient presenting with unambiguous signs and symptoms.
- Producers, by contrast, are in charge. They learn by producing their own organization of information by looking for relationships and patterns. Their interlocking "big picture" prevents most surprises and allows educated ruling out of incorrect answers just as they will rule out incorrect diagnoses with their patients.
Anyone who so desires can learn to be a producer because it is a skill that can be practiced and developed.
There is a difference between smart and skilled. The traditional way to view a student is that they are smart enough or they are not. However, results from cognitive science research indicate that the attribute of "skilled or less skilled" is more reliable. Emphasizing skill is also more encouraging because skills can be increased with practice.
- The question is not "are you smart enough?" If you were offered admission to medical school, you are more than likely "smart" enough. That only means you are "qualified" to begin your medical education, not necessarily that you are "prepared." Regardless of the efforts of medical schools to select the most qualified, there is still no way to predict with certainty that each student is prepared to adjust and learn how to educate themselves.
- The better question is, "are you skilled enough?" The fundamental "skill" that is needed in medical education is the ability to deliberately seek out integrative relationships for every concept learned. This results in learning that both facilitates long-term memory but also increases critical thinking skills for solving clinical problems. Even though this skill may be present in many entering medical students, they generally do not know how to make it stronger.
The Expert Skills Program has been developed to teach all students how to make all skill areas in their brain cortex stronger.
The ESP is a coordinated application of evidence-based concepts in brain performance and learning. The concepts that are applied in the ESP were adopted over a thirty year period as the SuccessTypes learning system evolved from experience.
- Growth Mindset is a concept that grew out of research on metacognition, i.e. thinking about thinking, that showed higher academic achievement in students who were motivated to "grow" their intelligence.
- Deliberate Practice has become well known as the "secret" to becoming an expert in any skill area. It has replaced "talent" as the secret to the development of superior performers.
- Personality type as a learning style provides an insight into different ways of learning and understanding. Learning strategies can be based on areas of the brain that might otherwise neglected. This is critical in medical practice where critical/analytical thinking is required for the best delivery of healthcare.
- The role of sleep in learning further explores and exploits the biology of the brain to optimize the use of limited learning time in the medical curriculum; a situation that does not change in medical practice. The brain is hard at work during sleep replaying events of the previous day. It will only hold on to information that is associated with emotion.
- Emotion is an outcome of the Experiential Learning Cycle, another key concept employed in the ESP, can work as effectively during individual study as it does when working with other students and with patients.
The ESP can be found in the navigation bar to the left. A more generalized version is provided for non-TTUHSC schools to adapt it to their situation.
The most prestigious credential supporting the Expert Skills Program has been in receiving the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teaching Award in 2010. Alpha Omega Alpha is the national medical honor society dedicated to the improvement of health care through high academic achievement and gifted teaching. The work receiving the award is reviewed by a national selection committee of medical educators for its contribution to medical education.
Keynote addresses for the following educational meetings:
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, 2010
- American College of Osteopathic Internists, 2010
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, 2011
- International Association of Medical Science Educators, 2014
- American Association of Anatomists, 2015
Other invited presentations:
- Alpha Omega Alpha Visiting Professor, 5 times (2008-2014)
- TEDx TexasTechUniversity, Bodybuilding for the Brain, 2014
- Presentations at 45 medical schools, over 30% repeat visits
Additional credentials can be obtained from the curriculum vitae and biosketch for Dr. Pelley linked below.
- If you are a student at Texas Tech, go to the TTUHSC ESP link.
- If you are a student outside of Texas Tech, go to the non-TTUHSC ESP link. This is essentially the same program but more generic to allow individual institutions to adapt ESP to their institution. All of the instructional materials, except for the copyright protected practice question item bank, are the same and remain freely accessible.
The navigation bar will help you directly access some materials that are needed for learning the ESP such as the SuccessTypes book and the Learning Style Type Indicator. There are also some relevant resources such as:
- A queston bank for use by TTUHSC students (password protected) for use in the ESP Step 1 Prep study groups; nonTTUHSC can readily develop such an item bank and it only needs to be done once - new questions aren't needed because it isn't a diagnostic tool, but rather it's a discussion and debate tool.
- Pathology resources that help integrate the basic sciences during Step 1 preparation
- The GRIPE pathology learning objectives that can form the core of Step 1 preparation; a perfect checklist of integrative topics
- A checklist of the most common diseases on USMLE Step 1
- A free-access link to the Webpath website that contains an indexed collection of high quality Step 1 case vignette questions
- A Student Support page that contains links to:
- The SuccessTypes Survival Guide for students who are in desperate need of fixing their way of studying.
- Guidelines for Academic Advising for use by academic counselors; these guidelines will help you realistically help a student adjust their learning while still underway in their courses. In other words, this will show you how to change a tire on a car that is still moving.
- The ESP Learning Awareness Inventory that can help both students and teachers in assessing what they know about how people learn; it's not about teaching and testing, but learning.
- Guidelines for Administration of the ESP for use by institutions that want to implement the ESP for their students.
- An E-SPeak Mapping page that is designed to help any medical student develop the skill of concept mapping.
- The EPA Thinking Course materials for any institution to conduct a preclinical experience in clinical thinking and its application to learning.
Also, please use the "contact us" link to send comments on the SuccessTypes site concerning the content, organization, and problems with links. If you wish, please share experiences that would be helpful to others.
This heading is purposely separate to call urgent attention to a new link to one of the most effective methods for medical students to learn. It's called E-SPeak Mapping and it represents the most current refinement of the application of concept mapping in medical education.
The important concept to take away regarding both personality type and learning style
is that neither are stereotypes nor are they limitations on thinking and that you
can only become a powerful thinker if you strengthen what you don't prefer to do.
The Expert Skills Program at this site shows you how to do that.