Seeking masterful educators
Date: February 22, 2011
A new graduate degree aims to help clinician-educators to become better teachers while climbing the promotional ladder.
Several years ago, Hopkins physician John Flynn wanted to pursue a master’s of education degree tailored specifically to health care professionals. He had to look outside of Hopkins to do it, because the institution didn’t offer such a program.
Ironically, however, when the professor of general internal medicine cracked open a textbook for his curriculum development course at the University of Cincinnati, he made an interesting discovery: The authors were faculty at Hopkins.
For Flynn, the observation confirmed his belief that Hopkins could offer a similar graduate program, helping health professionals to become better teachers while producing the scholarly work that would build their reputations as educators.
In October, following more than two years of work by a committee that Flynn co-chaired, University Provost Lloyd Minor approved a proposal to create the Master’s of Education in the Health Professions at Hopkins. The first classes start in September 2011.
The program—the result of an exceptional collaboration between the schools of medicine, public health, nursing, education and business—will be open to health educators in several disciplines. Flynn hopes that the learning opportunity will be particularly valuable to clinician-educators on Hopkins medical faculty, as they seek ways to gain promotion based on their teaching mission.
“The promotion system is one track and will always be one track,” says Flynn, who will complete his master’s this spring. “But clinician-educators need tools to get the scholarship to move to professor.”
The master’s of education program has two components. The first, taking two years of part-time work, is an 18-credit certificate, for which students will take courses in such topics as principles of adult learning, curriculum development, teaching methods, and assessment and evaluation.
Those pursuing the master’s degree—another two years and 15 credits—have the option to focus on educational research or educational leadership. Students will complete a publication-quality capstone project in one of those areas.
After its first year, in which most coursework will be conducted in classrooms, the degree will be offered in an online format.
Organizers believe the degree is distinctive for its intellectual focus on evidence-based teaching. They also say it will differ from similar programs offered elsewhere, in that courses will be taught by faculty in East Baltimore health professions schools and the school of education. In many other programs, course content is designed and delivered only by faculty in schools of education. The curriculum and faculty for this degree are now taking shape under the leadership of program director, Toni Ungaretti, an assistant dean in the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
A 2009 survey hints at the level of interest among school of medicine faculty: Twenty-five percent of Hopkins’ clinician-educators would be highly interested in pursuing the degree here, and a slightly smaller number would be highly interested in pursuing the certificate.
Flynn credits Lisa Heiser, vice dean for faculty development and the committee’s other co-chair, for spearheading the project and for bringing the five schools together to forge a collaboration that’s remarkable in its scope. Other degree partnerships involve two schools, but he knows of none that include five.
“One of the things that Lisa realized is that we already have so many of the components of the program here at Hopkins,” Flynn says. “We just needed to bring them all together.”