By Eleftheria Laios (Queen’s University), Lisa McKendrick-Calder (MacEwan University), Bryn Keogh (University of Calgary), Whitney Lucas Molitor (University of South Dakota), Lorelli Nowell (University of Calgary), Kerry Wilbur (University of British Columbia)
Our five-membered group came together after each of us individually expressed interest in participating in the 2022 International Collaborative Writing Group (ICWG-22) initiative related to augmenting public literacy in healthcare. The group consists of members with backgrounds in a variety of health profession disciplines and with a diversity of academic, professional, and lived experiences. We had varying levels of comfort with the process of collaborative writing and varying expertise with the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) itself. All of us were health professions educators, newcomers to the group, as well as novices with public SoTL. Invigorated to participate in the initiative, yet uncertain as to the how or what of our contribution, we embarked on a journey to define and refine our public SoTL project. This blog will recount the milestones reached by our group, including the clarity and the steps taken to answer our question on the essence of public SoTL.
Who is our public? And why do they care?
Although augmenting public literacy in healthcare was our initial starting point, once finally meeting in-person at ICWG-22, our topic evolved into a project related to the participation of the public in the education of health professions (HP) students. The conceptualization arose from what our cross-disciplinary group viewed as a mutually important topic in the education of health profession students, as well as the overlap in terms of our teaching philosophies; we embraced providing students with relevant, real-life learning experiences to help them grow into compassionate and competent health professionals ready to serve society’s health needs. The existence of scholarly publications suggesting that public participation in education results in deep learning for students, as well as benefits for patients, helped frame our proposed idea.
But what we struggled with most was defining our public audience for the SoTL project. What relevance does the work have outside the sphere of higher education and for whom? The ICWG workshops challenged our interpretation of who the public is. We considered our audience as being members of the public who regularly and knowingly interact with HP students, have isolated interactions with HP students, are merely present in spaces where such interactions may occur, and may not be aware of how and where HP students are trained.
In efforts to address our question, we circled back to a foundational issue–the intended outcome of the project. Our goal was to inform the public that their participation in student learning benefited the students, while simultaneously posing possible benefits for the public themselves. And although the public are the ultimate audience of healthcare professionals, they may not be aware of how they themselves contribute to health professions education. Through collaborative discussions within our group and with other ICWG peers, we decided that our public would be any (non-urgent, non-intensive care) consumer of healthcare. In thinking about how we would share the outcomes of our project, we decided on the use of an infographic summarizing the benefits for students and the public in clear and digestible ways, and that can be shared and displayed in the many spaces the public interacts with healthcare students.
Just as we thought that our project had gained clarity, we realized the uncertainty that remained around the question of why the public would care to be informed of their role in the education of HP students. We accepted that our public may not be invested consumers of the particular knowledge to be shared and decided that our project would take on an advocacy role. Still, was there a way that the public could benefit from knowledge related to the education of the students they interact with? Going back to the fact that the public are the ultimate audience of health professionals and that the current professional frameworks require ready-for-practice graduates with competencies in the domains of communication, patient-centeredness, and social responsibility, we argue that raising awareness of the invaluable role of the public in education could improve experiences for all affected parties, leading ultimately to better healthcare. Thus, our work intersects with the values and priorities of our public.
Making meaning of public SoTL and our project was initially unsettling. Being part of the ICWG-22 helped us overcome boundaries in our thinking about who consumers of knowledge are in health professions education. Collaborative discussions and thoughtful feedback from our peers at ICWG-22, pushed us forward onto a clearer path to reaching our public. Our work is now focused on developing an infographic to visually capture and communicate our scholarship with the public.