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A new approach to faculty development – build social networks!
How do social networks and faculty development courses affect clinical supervisors’ adoption of a medical education innovation? An exploratory study. Jippes E et al. Academic Medicine 2013;88(3):398-404.
Reviewed by Stephen Tinguely

What is the study question?
Does being connected within the social network of one’s department affect the adoption of an educational innovation and how does that compare to participation in a faculty development course on adopting that innovation?

How was the study done?
In 2004 the Royal Dutch Medical Association adopted the CanMEDS competency framework along with a mandate to provide structured and constructive (S&C) feedback to residents. Between 2007 and 2010 571 residents and 613 clinical supervisors in 4 specialties in the Netherlands completed a questionnaire rating their own or their supervisors’ adoption of this feedback innovation. The supervisors also rated how intensely they communicate with their departmental colleagues (their social network), leading to the calculation of a “centrality score,” and indicated if they had attended a faculty development session on implementing this new type of feedback. The authors calculated the effects of the faculty development course and connectedness to colleagues on adoption of the new feedback paradigm.

What were the results?
The perception of the participating clinical teaching faculty of having successfully adopted and utilized structured and constructive feedback after simply attending a faculty development course was not substantiated by their residents. There was a positive correlation between the successful adoption of S&C feedback and the faculty’s connectedness to one’s department (centrality score).

What are the implications of these findings?
This study supports moving beyond workshops alone as the method of faculty development delivery to “building communities of practice” (a persistent, sustaining, social network of individuals who share and develop an overlapping knowledge base, set of beliefs, values, histories and experiences focused on a common practice, i.e., a ”teaching community”, Steinert Y.).

Editor’s note: While many of us conduct faculty development sessions many times each academic year, we are often frustrated when practices don’t change. This article points to the possibility of a better approach – creating interactive sessions for groups of people who work together (LOL).

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