Learning Center Promotes Interprofessional Education

By Jon Parham

 Students (from left) Ted Clowers, Andrea Coker and Rachael McCaleb cut the ribbon opening the new Active Learning Center.
Students (from left) Ted Clowers, Andrea Coker and Rachael McCaleb cut the ribbon opening
the new Active Learning Center.
The new center can accommodate up to 198 for team-based learning.
The new center can accommodate up to 198
for team-based learning.

“Sometimes it’s hard to ask a question in a full lecture hall,” said McCaleb, of Little Rock.

Added third-year medical student Andrea Coker, of Fayetteville: “I think this will offer a more engaging and a more active way of learning than a lecture.”

The Active Learning Center, in newly renovated space on the first floor of the UAMS Library, is intended for students, faculty and staff, and provides an environment in which multiple teams can interact and learn in small group settings.

The brightly lit center, which can accommodate up to 198 people, is equipped with 33 tables seating six each along with electronic equipment and large video monitors arrayed around the room. It is now ready for use by students .

“We are moving to a more engaged learning style where students direct themselves and direct each other and away from lecture-driven education,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., in remarks prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the facility.

Rahn said he anticipates the center will be used by students in all UAMS colleges and the graduate school for collaborative learning as part of their curriculum as well as interprofessional learning across disciplines.

UAMS representatives visited similar facilities across the country to gather design ideas and see how the centers were being used, said UAMS College of Medicine Dean Debra Fiser, M.D. “This really puts us at the forefront of universities.

“Self-directed learning – where students or teams of students are given an objective then they must dig out the information for themselves, learn the context of that information and how to complete the objective – has shown to be far more effective when it comes to retention than students memorizing facts from a lecture that they might then forget after the test.”

A 2012 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Association of Schools of Public Health on improving cultural competence and patient care, pointed to collaborative learning as an increasingly important element.

Team-based projects teach students how to work together to solve problems, just as they will as health professionals, said the report. Multidisciplinary team-based service learning projects allow students to experience firsthand how one another’s interdependence and expertise lead to a more successful health outcome. This fosters interprofessional communication and awareness about the skills each discipline offers, according to the report.

“The UAMS Active Learning Center – centrally located within the library and the educational corridor of our campus – provides a state-of-the-art facility for such experiences,” said Jeanne K. Heard, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs and chief academic officer.

Heard envisioned the facility will be used for a range of activities, such as new team-based portions of the College of Medicine curriculum; interprofessional educational activities in which students, faculty or staff from multiple disciplines discuss health care topics; and continued development of faculty and staff for delivering team-based family- and patient-centered care.

The center itself is an example of interprofessional cooperation, she said, as the project came together with support from the colleges, chancellor’s office, construction management, information technology, the library and others. The center is retaining an original glass wall installed in 2008 with the support of funds from the College of Medicine Dean’s Society and the chancellor to enclose the area as a quiet study space for students accessible at all times of the day and night.

The original space within the library was built 35 years ago to house printed reference books and journals.