Alliance for CME Conference Day 2: hearts and minds

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I can't begin to say how much I loved this session on experiential learning! Maybe it's because I still had the message about connecting emotions with learning to make the message stick from the morning plenary, but the examples of the different experiential learning methods presenters Debra Bryan, MEd, and Carl Patow, MD, both with HealthPartners Institute for Medical Education, were amazing. They really showed us how you can facilitate emotional engagement that ultimately translates to changes in behavior.

I won't even try to explain them -- you have to experience experiential techniques to really understand why they're so effective -- but suffice to say they showed us everything from poetry, narrative storytelling (first-person stories from patients and others, to films, to short "micro-scenarios" to live "black box" theater), to what they called "third things," which ranged from game shows to iconic object exercises and art observation. OK, I'll explain the latter two just because I'd never heard of them before, at least not by name.

As one of the first people to show up, I was asked to take part in the iconic object exercise, which just meant I should check out some items they had spread out on a table, and pick one that resonated with me in some way. Two other early birds were asked to do the same, and later on we were asked to share with the rest of the room why we picked what we picked (a matchbox, a cork, and a seashell -- mine was the matchbox, which reminded me of my grandmother's matchbook collection).

Art observation involved bringing healthcare providers to an art museum and showing them a piece of art that evokes emotion. Then they are to talk about what it says to them, and why, which can help sharpen visual thinking. You can then have a docent tell them what the piece is supposed to be about, but it really doesn't matter, since there are no "right" answers. It's all about learning to really look at something and think about what you're seeing.

You know how you usually feel by 3:45 pm after a day of lectures and PowerPoints? I left the room feeling energized, enlightened, and ready to learn more. What I'd love to see next year would be some sessions that use more experiential formats to teach other types of content. I can't be the only one who would love that, and learn from it. I can't help thinking about the format experimenting that meeting planners did at a meeting I went to a week or so ago, and wishing the adult educators here could try being a little more experimental -- and experiential -- as well.

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