The first year of Harvard Medical School’s Pathways MD curriculum, which launched this past fall, relies on flexible, case-based, collaborative learning.
Students come to class prepared, having learned basic concepts ahead of time through online readings and brief introductory videos. Class time is spent with faculty solving problems based on the learned concepts.
Students work in small groups of four to six, then form larger groups of around forty to discuss their groups’ solutions to the problems posed.
This collaborative approach would have been physically impractical in the existing classrooms in the Tosteson Medical Education Center (TMEC).
“Pathways is a complete rethinking of the MD curriculum for students in the Cannon, Castle, Holmes, and Peabody Societies,” says Jane Neill, HMS associate dean for medical education planning and administration. “To accommodate a new kind of learning, we needed a new kind of space.” Neill, together with John Scully, HMS associate director of administration for engineering and construction, led the design and construction process for four new three-room learning suites in TMEC.
The new classrooms take advantage of light drawn deep into the building through large exterior windows and glass interior walls. The rooms are further brightened by maple accents and white walls that, in some areas, double as erasable whiteboard space.
The learning studios and classrooms feature movable wheeled tables that can be arranged in a variety of configurations. Each base unit seats two, but for teamwork the tables can be clustered to seat four or more; the whole classroom can also be reconfigured into more traditional arrangements to accommodate conference-room style conversations. Students can even create individual workstations by positioning privacy walls.
The new suites also feature technology that allows teachers and students to share digital resources with one another or, through a simple interface, include other classes and guests at remote locations.
Image: M.R.F. Buckley