In his talk (subtitled “School Sucks”), Northwestern University Physics Professor Dr. Tae describes how he would improve math and science education. While this is directed at college studies, some of the concepts are applicable to teaching Emergency Medicine.

He shares a lot of great insight, but I wanted to focus on one concept in particular:

The secret to learning = “Work your ass off until you figure it out.” 

Dr. Tae demonstrates this as we watch him make 57 failed attempts trying to learn a new skateboarding trick before finally being able to successfully complete it on the 58th. In order to master this new skill, he had to actively struggle with it until he succeeded. He contrasts this with lectures where students “just sit there” passively, learning very little.

Clinical decision making is a skill, much like skateboarding, and our job in teaching this may be to let the students do most of the work. We’re only there to offer guidance and point them in the right direction when necessary. So how can we challenge our students to struggle and fail until they ultimately figure it out?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments. Thanks!

Rahul Patwari, MD

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
Rush University Medical Center
Twitter: @RahulPatwari