Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy


Guinea Pigs

No, not us. Next year's class. I just did a pilot "small group" session that is supposed to mimic next year's teaching style. Let me tell you a story about Histology- I promise it's relevant.

The first day of Histo, we found out that we would be grading each other, in small group sessions, from 1-5 (very unsatisfactory to very satisfactory). We also were told that if we graded all of our peers 5, we would be docked points ourselves. This, of course, meant that no matter how well your group performed, you couldn't give everyone an A... unless, of course, you screwed yourself over. Interestingly enough, myself and (via informal poll) ~50% of our class actually chose to do that rather than screw everyone else. Still, small groups quickly turned from a nice break from lecture into backstabbing, vicious point-mongering. My group learning grade in histo was a 72% by the end of the semester. Technically the process was anonymous but it became pretty obvious who was out for points. Nasty. We hated those sessions.

Back to today. 5 other students and I sat in a one-way mirrored room and worked our way through a case presentation. It turns out the kid had Marfan's syndrome once we were given all the exam findings and lab tests. Once we were done, we were given the same sort of evaluation we had done in Histo to do for each other. Afterwards we found out that all the department heads were sitting on the other side of the mirror watching us. Cool. One free dinner later we were chatting about our opinions with the rollers and shakers.

Apparently the same system (or in some slightly modified form) is going to be released in full force on the next crop of first years. And it's going to be a huge part of their grade, every 2 weeks. All 6 students in the pilot program kept telling the administrators that it was a bad idea and would only lead to problems, but I don't think they wanted to hear it.

So, I guess we'll see if the first year class rips itself apart next year. Honestly if they have to determine each other's grades every 2 weeks the whole class is going to be looking over its shoulder every minute... not exactly an environment conducive to learning. Oh... and one of the docs kept coming back to the concept that "satisfactory" should be good enough, and "exceptional" should be reserved for only a select few. Nice try, doc, but here at med school, your peers grade like Harvard- everyone gets an A unless they really prove they don't deserve it.

They were also talking about doing away with Honoring... which frankly, would mean that people who CAN honor would have no incentive to work past the 70% mark. You burn out pretty bad near exam time- if you knew you could coast those last few days, you'd better believe you'd do it. Personally I'd like to think that my doctor worked his or her respective tail off to make it through med school.

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  1. Yeah, the new system sounds pretty bad. I personally gave everyone 100% because I didn’t pay attention when she said she’d dock points for doing it. I’d still do it again, though, because everyone deserved it.

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