Having participated in the Teaching Evidence-Based Medicine course in 2015, I was delighted to be asked back to deliver a session to the 2016 cohort. However, when I saw the course schedule, my delight waned – the last slot on an intensive four-day course is never going to be the most popular time. When I was planning my talk, I realised that the TEBM students wouldn’t be as easily distracted as the Year 11 boys I had in the ‘graveyard slot’ on my school timetable last year (Period 6 on a Friday!), so perhaps it would be OK. I deliberately planned a session where the audience would have to think on their own and reflect on the week, as well as using brightly coloured post-it notes to keep everyone engaged.
The TEBM course is packed with opportunities to think about your own understanding of EBM – brushing up on some stats, or spending time considering results – but it really does focus on the teaching aspects. The keynote talks are all lead by expert EBM practitioners who demonstrate how they plan and teach about different ideas, whilst filling gaps in participants’ knowledge. The aspect I found most useful in 2015 was the small group sessions: getting to know a varied group of EBM enthusiasts while critiquing each other’s work so that we could all improve. As a ‘drop-in’ speaker in 2016 I really missed this part of the course!
Above all else, however, the critical element about the TEBM course, and what sets it apart from other EBM courses and conferences, is the T. Participants are there to improve their teaching of EBM. Whether they are new to a teaching role or they are new to EBM, or maybe neither, what links every participant and course tutor is the T. How do we effectively teach EBM in a way that is going to enhance our students’ understanding, leaving them able to go away and be more critical in their own use of evidence?
Look back at tweets and photos from #TEBM2016
There are many different ways of teaching effectively – what the TEBM course showed me again this year is that, for whoever we are teaching, context is everything. Whether we hook our lesson on a patient case study, or a headline, or a challenge to our students, we need to be mindful of what will draw our students in, not switch them off. If we switch them off, we risk losing them to the acceptance of claims made from authoritative sources – the voice that shouts the loudest, or uses the most technically impregnable language. With effective teaching, we can open minds and challenge claims, but it takes the T, not just the EBM.