A Study of PhD Students’ Perspectives Concerning Pedagogic Training in Doctoral Program

Authors

1 Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

2 Educational Development Office, School of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical science, Mashhad, Iran

3 Department of Microbiology and Virology, School of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Science, Mashhad, Iran

4 Faculty of Health, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

5 Addiction Research Center , Faculty of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

Abstract

Introduction: Many PhD students will continue their academic career as university lecturers; therefore they should be familiar with presentation skills. Most universities around the world offer postgraduate pedagogic courses in their PhD curriculums, while such courses are not included in most Iranian PhD programs. Thus at the Education Development Office of Mashhad Medical School, we offered the pedagogic courses for PhD students and thereafter the viewpoints of these students about such courses in the PhD training programs were assessed.
Methods: Thirty two PhD students attended the "pedagogic skills" course held at School of Medicine of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in 2012. The students were divided in three smaller groups for workshops presented by experts in educational development office. At the end of each workshop, students’ points of view were evaluated using a questionnaire prepared based on Likert rating scale.
Results: The majority of respondents (96.87%) have evaluated the importance of pedagogic workshops as high to very high levels. The relationship of the pedagogic training and their future career was assessed as high to very high by 93.75% (p < 0.01). Also, according to most PhD students (93.75%), the addition of such courses to PhD program was highly beneficial (p < 0.01). Students (68.75%) stated that the topics discussed in this pedagogic training were new to them and they agreed to participate in further pedagogic trainings in future (87.5%).
Conclusion: The pedagogic courses should be considered of high importance, and accordingly should be included in PhD training curriculums of the universities. This strategy will result in training more successful lecturers and will help to promote education at the universities which is an ultimate goal of the educational systems.

Keywords


Introduction

One of the goals of PhD training is to educate and provide the next generation of university lecturers. Many PhD students will continue their academic career as lecturers, though; they receive no or at least little training about their future job as lecturers. It seems logical that these students should learn presentation skills during their education. Inaddition to their role as teachers,PhD students are required to participate  in several seminars or congresses and in many cases they should present their research findings in international scientific meetings. Therefore, they should be familiar with presentation skills. PhD students at many universities all around the world, pass pedagogic courses during their PhD training, while there are no such programs in our PhD education curricula.

Teaching is a two-way process, during which learner and educator influence on each other (1). Effective teaching relies on all teacher behaviors that lead to better learning and educational purposes (2). Training  students in different aspects of science, research, and culture is a  very important issue and planning for an appropriate performance of this task is one of the most crucial missions of universities. One of the major problems of education in universities is lack of effective teaching criteria. Providing education guidance and discussions  on how and why these patterns can be effective teaching methods, can be offered in pedagogic workshops or courses.

In the teaching process, teaching and learning are interdependent. Thus, the effectiveness of teaching is simultaneously related to student and educator factors. Indeed, with regard to the views of students and teachers on effective teaching, better learning can be achieved (3). Teachers and education professionals have stated many components are involved in education including learner characteristics, lecturer, education environment, media, educational planning and mode of assessment (4-5). Studies have indicated that medical students' view of the characteristics of  an effective teacher includes: having a good relationship with students, being considered as a positive role model, encouraging and organizing the educational activities (3).

Many hours of interaction between lecturers and students can be changed into an impressive environment for both. This requires teachers to learn specific rules of teaching skills that are obtained from theory and research. Meanwhile, in addition to PhD students, university instructors also need to update their knowledge on how to teach, because new ideas in the field of medical education  are continuously presented by pedagogy scientists. In fact, with advancements in science, and emerging new educational theories, teaching and learning styles are evolving. Therefore the professional activities of any teacher should be updated in accordance with such advances (6-7). Such changes in teaching methods in various fields of medical sciences have been suggested by several studies (8-9). With regard to the relationship between the quality of teaching and learning outcomes for students, improving educational skills has been incorporated into faculty development and accreditation programs (10).

This study aimed to determine the views of PhD students about the need for pedagogic skills training.To analyze the need for “teaching to teach” programs, Educational Development Office (EDO) of Medical School at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, offered pedagogic skills workshops for PhD students. After this educational intervention, the students’ viewpoints about requirement of such programs in their educational curriculum were evaluated using a questionnaire.

Method

The study was conducted at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in 2012. Thirty two PhD students participated in  the study  and were selected purposively, of which 19 were male and 13 were female. The students were from different departments including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, biophysics, microbiology, and immunology.

The students were divided into three groups. Workshops of "pedagogic skills" were held in the format of lecture, teamwork, group discussions, practical demo, and role modeling in three consecutive periods. In the beginning of each workshop students were provided with the principles of general pedagogy, thereafter they were divided into small groups (2-3 students in each group) and they were asked to prepare a short presentation. Next, each group representative presented a short lecture and the audience gave their comments or feedbacks. Finally at the end of each workshop, students’ points of views were evaluated using a questionnaire prepared based on Likert rating scale. Questionnaire’s validity was reviewed and confirmed by experts at the Educational Development Office of Mashhad Medical School. The questions were designed to assess doctoral students’ opinions about the importance, necessity, novelty and possible professional applications of such workshops or courses for PhD students.

 The questionnaire did not include any name or title of the  responder to prevent any possible bias. The questionnaires were distributed at the end of each workshop and the participants were asked to fulfill the questionnaire. Thereafter the students' viewpoints about each variable were defined as percentages. The data was  then demonstrated in a table as frequency distributions of variables.

Results

The results are shown in Table 1. As indicated in the table, the majority of respondents (96.87%) have evaluated the  importance of pedagogic workshop as high to very high levels. Most respondents assessed the  relationship of pedagogic skills with their future career up to high to very high (93.75%) (p < 0.01). Participants generally believed  that the pedagogic training is beneficial for them and should be officially incorporated into the PhD curriculum (93.75%) (p < 0.01). According to the majority of the students (68.75%), the topics discussed in this pedagogic training were new, and they received such trainings for the first time. They agreed to attend further advanced courses on pedagogic trainings in future (87.5%).

 

Table  1: The perspectives of PhD students about pedagogy workshops and courses.

Very low

Low

n (%)

Moderate

n (%)

High

n (%)

Very high

n (%)

                                        

-

-

1 (3.12)

9 (28.12)

22 (68.75)

Importance of pedagogy for doctoral students

-

-

6 (18.75)

19 (59.37)

7 (21.87)

 Educational needs

-

-

2 (6.25)

10 (31.25)

20 (62.5)

Relation to their professional future

-

-

2 (6.25)

8 (25)

22 (68.75)

Agree with the addition of pedagogy course to PhD curricula

-

1 (3.12)

9 (28.12)

18 (56.25)

4 (12.5)

Novelty of teaching workshops

-

1 (3.12)

3 (9.37)

6 (18.75)

22 (68.75)

Agree with attending workshops on teaching methods in the future

 

Discussion

This study was designed and conducted to determine the view of doctoral students about the need for pedagogic skills training in their educational program. Although these students generally had teaching experience at universities, the majority of them stated that pedagogic skills trainings were new for them, and they had not received such trainings elsewhere in their official education. Therefore such pedagogic trainings play an important role in enhancing their teaching skills.

During the workshop, PhD students learned the characteristics of effective teaching, teaching and learning process, and some pedagogic skills. These skills included  how to prepare a pedagogic-approved powerpoint presentation, how to prevent common mistakes in powerpoint presentations, how to attract students to the topic, how to communicate effectively with the students (use of eye contact, body language, gestures, tone, pause, and also use of rhetorical questions or story telling method), how to manage the class ,and how to face with unexpected situations like low attention students.

These are the skills that distinguish a prospering teacher from unsuccessful colleagues. The students stated that the topics discussed in the pedagogic training were new for them and they received such trainings for the first time. The fact that most of these students had teaching experience reveals that many university lecturers start their career without previous knowledge about how to teach. In this study doctoral students believed that pedagogic trainings should be considered as one of their educational needs. Such trainings are mandatory for doctoral students in many prestigious universities. Education in universities should be designed based on the professional needs of learners. Due to their future career as university lecturers such trainings are in line with a professional-based education. In this study, most students expressed that for more effectiveness, such trainings should constantly be held and they should regularly receive such trainings. 68.8% of them agreed to participate complementary workshops in the future.

Some studies has highlighted the need for teaching methods courses for medical residents due to their teaching roles and responsibilities (11-12). Current residency programs also lack the education of effective teaching strategies, supervision and leading undergraduate students; while residents have the responsibility of clinical training for medical students. These residents often take the responsibility of teaching and educating without formal training and without adequate resources to develop their tuition skills. This may lead to serious educational imperfection in clinical training (13). In addition to teaching skills, the pedagogic programs should also enhance leading, managing, relationship skills as well as teamwork capacities in a learning environment. In such positive educational atmosphere, students develop their creative thinking, which leads to a successful and effective learning outcomes (14).

Pedagogy training for PhD students improves their teaching skills, which results in higher self confidence to perform their academic career as lecturers. This ultimately leads to improved learning outcomes and academic performance of their undergraduate students. Improved teaching skills can lead to a creative environment for educators and learners and will effectively lead to better educational achievements (15). As a beneficial policy in the universities, the PhD students’ role as educators should be considered of high importance and they should receive constantly planned training courses on pedagogic skills. Indeed in many universities pedagogic training has been considered as a “must learn” for doctoral students and such trainings have been incorporated into their official curriculum.

The drawback of the study was the limited number of responders. The greater number of participants and preferably from other universities might strengthen the investigation, however due to the  limited number of PhD students we were unable to include greater number of participants. For this reason we suggest performing such studies in other universities with more doctoral students involved in the investigation. Due to the teaching responsibilities of the medical residents, it is recommendable to conduct such studies with medical residents as well.

To summarize, according to the results of this study, we recommend that the universities plan for comprehensive programs to offer such courses for their doctoral students. Due to its importance and applications pedagogic skills education should be added to the PhD curricula. This strategy promotes education in universities which is the ultimate goal of  the educational system.

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