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The Educator Corner - January 2021

January 12, 2021
by Dana Dunne

Dear DOM Faculty:

I will be posting highlights of the clinical teaching seminars we offer through the DOM and/or TLC. These are based on Faculty Development Curriculum developed at Stanford which has been in use for over 35 years.

Importance of learning climate- Learning climate may not seem like a sexy or high yield topic on effective teaching but promotion of a positive learning climate can pay off huge dividends!

Your ability to create a positive learning climate means that:

  • Your learners will not be afraid to ask question (which can positively impact patient safety)
  • Your teaching will be more effective because learners will feel supported (not anxious, excited to learn from you)
  • Constructive feedback will be better received after you have established that you care about your learners and their growth through letting them know specifically what they are doing well and where they could improve.


Specific behaviors that allow you to create a positive learning climate include:

  1. Stimulation- examples
    1. Show enthusiasm for a topic and/or for your learners!
    2. Show interest through your body language
    3. Use animated voice
    4. Give learners breaks after 15 - 20 minutes of content (keep it short or build in breaks!)
  2. Learner Involvement- examples
    1. Look at learners
    2. Listen
    3. Encourage participation
    4. Avoid monopolizing
  3. Respect and Comfort
    1. Use learners names (powerful!)
    2. Acknowledge problems /situations faced by learners (e.g.- “I know you just started clerkship but try to do this presentation in seven minutes.” or “I know you are running late because the patient didn’t arrive on time and I appreciate you seeing her.”)
    3. Invite learners to express opinions; respect divergent opinions
    4. Avoid ridicule, intimidation, interruption (latter sometimes necessary and works better if you have promoted a positive climate and educational purpose for interruption is made clear)
  4. Admission of Limitations
    1. Admit own error and limitations (“I remember being totally confused by that when I was at your stage,” or “I had to look this up because I remembered incorrectly,” or talk about a mistake you once made!)
    2. Acknowledge limitations in learners- “I know you haven’t done many pelvic exams , no problem let me walk you through.”
    3. Invite learners to bring up limitations (“What do you feel uncertain about as we go to see this patient who is in alcohol withdrawal?” )
    4. Limitations in the context of medicine - (“I know JVP measurement is difficult, let’s keep practicing.”)


See Related Documents for a worksheet of these behaviors if you would like to keep for handy reference. In addition, there is also a worksheet under Related Documents that would allow you to interact more deeply with this subject by reflecting on a time that you felt the learning climate was not optimal.

Happy Teaching!

Dana Dunne, MD MHS

Associate Chair for Education

Submitted by Julie Parry on January 12, 2021