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MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


Teaching course gives graduates boost in career

by Dawn Brazell
Public Relations
 You can be an expert in your subject, but find it very hard to teach it to others.

No one knows that better than Ruth M. Patterson, Ed.D., who instructs the popular Teaching Techniques course (CGS 725) for graduate and post-doctoral students in MUSC’s College of Graduate Studies.  
It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and she puts up an overhead informational sheet on the differences in measurement and evaluations, detailing what makes one version a more valid measurement than another. She also passes out new handouts that they add to their thick binders for the class.

“After this class, you’ll be a qualified teacher, and I’ll have to be worried about my job,” she said, joking.

Not too worried.

College of Graduate Studies Dean Perry V. Halushka M.D., Ph.D., said the course, which is free for post-doctoral students, consistently gets high marks. “The students learn the principles of how to be a successful teacher. They have all commented to me about how helpful her course is, and that they feel confident that they can be effective teachers having taken it.”

The class ends with students being required to design and teach a class in a micro-teach format, on which they are evaluated. A successful evaluation earns them a MUSC teaching certificate. Patterson said she’s heard from numerous students that their teaching certificate was beneficial in the application and interview process. It also helps when they find themselves in front of a classroom. Just because a person is the most advanced in his or her technical field, doesn’t mean they can teach that material well, she said.

“It is really unfair to ask a technical expert to know how to design lesson plans, plan an integrated curriculum in that field, understand the variety of learning styles of the students they are teaching, develop an appropriate syllabus and a myriad of details which all faculty must work with. Why not give them the tools to make it less stressful to teach?”

Currently, MUSC is participating in the IRACDA Program (Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award)  from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. MUSC partners with Claflin University in taking some of the graduates of the Teaching Techniques course and placing them in the science courses at Claflin, where they are mentored by full-time faculty in the sciences and teach classes and labs for the Claflin students, while continuing their research interests at MUSC. Some of the students also teach science courses at The Citadel after completing this course, she said. “Graduates have great success in finding academic positions after having these teaching experiences.”

Patterson, professor emerita, has been teaching for more than 30 years. She was named Outstanding Teacher in the College of Health Professions, and also received the MUSC Teaching Award. She taught in the Masters of Science in Health Professions Education (MSHPE) program, housed in the MUSC’s College of Health Professions, for several years. She retired from that program in 2001, and started teaching this course. She said the administration and staff have been very supportive.

“They truly believe in the mission of making more effective teachers in the sciences. I actually look forward to each day I return to MUSC to teach the teachers of the future.”

Patterson said it gives her a sense of accomplishment to help new faculty know how to write learning outcomes and behavioral objectives in the three domains of learning, write lesson plans and a syllabus for their courses and learn to evaluate students in a valid and reliable method.

“I think teaching is a science and an art. A science because it has certain formulas and methods and hierarchies to follow, and then it becomes an art as teachers continue to craft their lessons and materials so that students look forward to entering their profession.”

Friday, Nov. 19, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.