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Series on education
How should we be teaching our undergraduates?
  1. Jane E Dacre,
  2. Robin A Fox
  1. Research Centre for Medical Education, 4th Floor, Holborn Union Building, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 3UA, UK
  1. Professor Dacre Email: j.dacre{at}

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Medical education has changed significantly over the past two decades in many European countries. Rheumatologists have kept up to date with this change by becoming involved in curricular reform, and with the development of national,1 and European2 rheumatology curricula for undergraduate and postgraduate education Most of the examples of change cited in this article are based on the UK medical schools, but it is likely that these changes are reflected in other European countries. In addition, medical schools are in the midst of the implementation of substantial reforms of their own curricula after the General Medical Council recommendations.3 The quality of rheumatology teaching is in the process of being evaluated as part of the Quality Assurance Agency visits, and there is likely to be an increasing demand for teachers in higher education (including medicine) to be trained following the Dearing report.4 Provided that we can continue to keep abreast of these changes the standard of undergraduate teaching in rheumatology will improve considerably.

One of the current themes of medical education is that it has become recognised as a lifelong process.5 Our undergraduates need to acquire learning skills that will take them from their undergraduate experience, through their general clinical training, specialist registrar training, and continuing medical education as consultant rheumatologists. Another theme is the shift from a teacher centred approach, where the emphasis is on the teachers and what they do, to a learner centred approach, where the emphasis is on what the students learn. To achieve this shift, a learning facilitator replaces the traditional didactic teacher, and traditional didactic teaching methods are replaced by interactive teaching in smaller groups.

The principles behind these methods are based on a body of educational research that has identified characteristics related to effective university teaching and learning. The …

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