SfN-Funded Workshop Provides Training for African Medical Faculty
Twenty-six junior medical faculty from 11 African countries took part in a teaching workshop this summer in Rabat, Morocco, aimed at improving the foundations of neuroscience knowledge and fostering leaders who will train students and advocate for neuroscience education across the continent.
“This workshop is a necessary recommendation for everybody in Africa teaching any aspect of neuroscience,” one participant wrote in a survey after the workshop, held June 7-12 in conjunction with the 11th Society of Neuroscientists of Africa International Conference. “It has empowered me in all ways to become a good teacher.”
The Africa Regional Committee of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) sponsors the workshop, which SfN has co-funded for the last six years. The Grass Foundation joined as a partner this year.
Organizer Sharon Juliano, professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, reported that the workshops seem to be advancing neuroscience instruction in Africa. Past participants have been successful in presenting proposals to create neuroscience curricula in their institutions, and were able to implement lessons learned from the workshops.
As in previous years, IBRO updated and improved workshop content in order to help participants meet the challenges of teaching at African universities: overcrowded classes, limited access to technology, and problems getting consistent, reliable electrical power in the classrooms.
“We increased the number of sessions on ‘how to teach effectively’ and (the number of) discussion sessions,” Juliano noted. “We made our discussion sessions more structured by presenting the attendees with specific questions to address and an order of progression.”
Juliano noted that all of the workshop components provide time for discussion about how to teach effectively, as well as interactive activities and group labs.
Because of the diversity of students and courses, the workshop focused on training instructors how to teach students the basic elements of neuroscience: fundamentals of neurons and glia, principles of electrophysiology, selected aspects of sensory and motor processing and function, and limbic system function. Workshop attendees also took part in a special lecture by Michael Boivin of Michigan State University, who spoke on the issue of “Cognitive Rehabilitation After Severe Malaria,” sponsored by The Grass Foundation.
“One of the intents of the Teaching Tools Workshop is to provide tools to be used by these teachers to encourage more efficient, clear, and interactive teaching,” Juliano said. “The participants leave with all the tools they were exposed to during the workshop, including lectures, interactive laboratories, atlases, and other materials and software (e.g. Neurons in Action, to teach electrophysiology).”
The workshop curriculum was also tailored to the types of courses taught by faculty at African universities. Very few universities offer programs or even full courses in neuroscience, yet faculty teach courses that often include aspects of neuroscience, such as neuropharmacology. In addition, faculty train students who are pursuing a broad range of specialties. Most are medical students, but they may also be nursing, biomedical, physical therapy, or veterinary students, and in many cases, a combination of students from a variety of disciplines.
“It has increased my passion for neuroscience and definitely my approach to teaching neuroanatomy/neuroscience will greatly improve,” wrote one workshop participant.
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