Promoting self-directed learning skills in residency: A case study in program development

Melissa Nothnagle, Roberta Goldman, Mark Quirk, Shmuel Reis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Self-directed learning (SDL) skills are essential for the formation and ongoing competence of today's physicians who work in the context of expanding scientific knowledge and changing health care systems. In 2007-2008, the authors developed a program to promote SDL in the Brown University Family Medicine Residency. Through an iterative process, the project team juggled learning theories (i.e., Knowles' SDL model, Collins' cognitive apprenticeship model, and Quirk's expertise development model) with curricular goals, instructional options, and local constraints to design a practical and theoretically robust intervention.The intervention that emerged from this process features a faculty physician serving as a learning coach who meets individually each month with all second-year residents to assist them in generating learning goals, reflecting on their learning experiences, and practicing evidence-based medicine (EBM) skills. An electronic portfolio serves as a documentation tool that supports reflection; residents record their goals and reflections in the portfolio, which also contains their formative assessments, procedure logs, and special projects. To address the hidden curriculum, the program designers took special care to avoid increasing faculty and resident workload and created a forum for discussion and group reflection.Program evaluation combines qualitative and quantitative methods, such as surveys of and interviews with residents and faculty, to assess changes in residents' SDL and EBM skills and in the program's educational culture.The authors use Kern and colleagues' six-step model for curriculum development to describe both the unfolding of this complex project and the choices that resulted in the current program design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1874-1879
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


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