Visual Thinking Strategies for Medical Students – The Teacher Experience
Maher B,1 Magner R2, Malone A1, Bennett D1, O’Flynn S,1 Ryan A.,3
1 School of Medicine, UCC.
2 Medical Student, University College Cork
3 Department of Paediatrics and Neonatology, Cork University Hospital.
Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a teaching method based on open-ended yet highly-structured discussions of visual art of increasing complexity. VTS is thought to enhance critical thinking and observation skills and to help present ideas, while respecting and learning from others. The College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork is the first European University to introduce VTS into its curriculum. Clinical Faculty trained in VTS facilitate VTS sessions across the different healthcare disciplines (Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Midwifery, Dentistry, Clinical Therapies). VTS is also used for student teaching in the neonatal unit by a Consultant Neonatologist trained in VTS.
While research has shown benefits of VTS for students, there has been no research on benefits of VTS teaching for VTS teachers. The aim of this study was to explore experiences of VTS facilitators and identify potential benefits of VTS facilitation.
Methods: Faculty from the College of Medicine and Health facilitated a 6 -week VTS programme for Third Year medical students. Facilitators’ opinions and attitudes were assessed using semi-structured interviews and written response analysis.
Results: Facilitators found the VTS sessions engaging and enjoyable. Identified themes included potential benefits of teaching VTS on facilitators’ listening, observation, and group facilitation skills. VTS provided a unique opportunity to teach across all disciplines. Facilitators found the VTS teaching a valuable opportunity to observe group dynamics and student participation.
The study also provided insight into potential benefits of VTS for students. VTS helped initiate conversation among students from different cultural backgrounds. Medical students engaged with VTS and were quick to make new observations. Students engaged better with works of art than medical images.
Conclusion; VTS facilitation has potential benefits for VTS teachers including skills in attentive listening, focused observation, expert facilitation and managing group dynamics. VTS can be used in a variety of medical educational settings.