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ABC of Learning and Teaching in Medicine.
  1. M C Bateson
  1. Consultant Physician and Specialist in Gastroenterology, General Hospital, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK;

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    Edited by Peter Cantillon, Diana Wood, and Linda Hutchinson. (Pp 64; £16.95.) BMJ Books, 2003. ISBN 0-7279-1678-5.

    This is an attractively presented short introductory text for medical educators. Sixteen authors produced 14 chapters on a variety of topics relating to the philosophy of adult learning, techniques of acquiring skills and knowledge, and the assessment of results. A rather erratic chapter order probably reflects the fact that the book originated as a series of BMJ articles.

    The most helpful chapters are the first one applying educational theory to medical teaching, and the last on creating relevant teaching materials. The middle section on large group, small group, individual, and clinical teaching is also effective. A future edition might with benefit include specific chapters on how adults learn and on how individual teachers may achieve maximum effectiveness.

    The emphasis is heavily on student contribution rather than lecturing methods with the learner encouraged to contribute the majority of the talk time. There are valuable insights into satisfactory techniques. It is humbling to think that the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was introduced 30 years ago, since its UK introduction has been relatively recent. There is appropriate reticence about the impact of web based learning, conjuring up the image of an unhappy isolated anorak clad student who is trying to compensate for a lack of interpersonal skills.

    Drawbacks are predictable. Ideas in education are ephemeral, and some of the concepts presented are outdated; why on earth should the verb “enjoy” be unacceptable in learning? Jargon can confuse, and I am still struggling with “self-actualisation” as a concept that could have been better expressed if it means anything. One hopes the word “andragogy” does not replace “adult learning”. For small group and individual clinical teaching the concept of BOGERD (background, opportunity, goal, evaluation, rescue plan, deal) is not discussed. Does this mean it is obsolete or merely that the authors do not subscribe to it? Another quite useful concept is PQRS assessment which emphasises the role of Praise before questioning students how they might improve, reviewing progress, and summarising the exercise. Similarly the relaxing concept of the doughnut tutorial is not specifically mentioned. Students prepare materials and present to each other, and the educator’s role is merely to provide refreshment and referee the debate.

    The overall impression is favourable. This is not totally comprehensive, sometimes hindered by technical language, and not always at the cutting edge of educational practice, but in general a useful text.