A recent discussion on the #CMEchat hashtag on Twitter (transcript is here) got me thinking about the difference between content experts who just present information and teachers who truly educate. (It set columnist Lawrence Sherman off as well; here are his musings). While key opinion leaders, or KOLs, may have ruled the continuing medical education world for time immemorial, regardless of their educational expertise, I believe that may be a dictatorship that’s going down. It has to, because today’s ever-changing store of knowledge, healthcare environment, and patients all demand that learners actually learn, not just occupy a seat for a prescribed length of time.
Or am I just dreaming of a world in which learning really is the point? It’s hard to argue that there’s still a need to get those KOLs to headline a medical conference if all he’s going to do is recite the data from his most recent research, and all she’s going to do is outline the main points of her latest article in the specialty’s journal. There are so many channels now to disseminate vital information that needs to be shared, including the Internet, audio/video, and old-fashioned print. It’s hard to imagine that healthcare providers will be willing to take the time away from their practices to travel to a conference and sit
in a dark room just to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
And yet they are. We all—CME providers and the healthcare professionals alike—still tend to be somewhat in thrall to the idea of learning directly from that “sage on the stage” big-name doc or researcher who, let’s face it, might just be the main reason some are going to the conference.
You might be able to secure who have all the qualities of great educators, which the #CMEchatters identified as being great communicators and listeners who can motivate learners and provide perspective while keeping an open mind.
However, you still might need those marquee KOLs to draw participants to the conference. And while they know their content cold, they may not know a lot about adult ed. Do you have strong programs in place to teach your KOLs how to be good educators? Do you have the gumption to face their outrage at the idea that they need to participate in those programs? How do you motivate your content experts to be education experts as well?
One of the most intriguing ideas I heard during that Twitter chat was to involve your KOLs in your objectives, gaps analysis, and outcomes from the beginning, to tell them early on “how far they have to move the needle”—and then to publish the outcomes so those who educate most effectively will have tangible proof of how their skills stack up against those of their peers. As one person noted, “They are competitive.” Would this just stir up a hornets’ nest, or would it be the catalyst for that regime change I’m hoping for?
Please comment below, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org; or tweet me at @spelletier—I’d love to know your thoughts on this one, or any other ideas you have on how to transform talking heads into true adult educators.
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