Preclinical microbiology and infectious diseases courses too often primarily depend on PowerPoint lectures and notes, combined with multiple-choice tests, as their primary teaching tools. This strategy sets low expectations for students, encouraging short-term memory and discouraging understanding and long-term memory. These methods also fail to stimulate active participation, collaborative learning, and two-way communication with the professor, and they do not respect the students' diverse talents and ways of learning. The Infectious Diseases Society of America Preclinical Curriculum Committee proposes a new approach that emphasizes active learning and understanding and that addresses all of these failures. It consists of five components: (1) "Just-in-time" teaching that requires students to e-mail the answers to two general questions as well as any areas of misunderstanding to the instructor several hours before each lecture, (2) peer instruction or large-group sessions consisting of student teams of four who electronically answer a conceptual question before each major section of the lecture, (3) teaching from edited textbooks and Internet sources, (4) small-group discussions that emphasize pathogenesis and differential diagnosis, and (5) essay questions that encourage and test understanding in addition to recognition. A national consensus on factual content is proposed, with the goals of reducing information overload and minimizing requirements for excessive memorization. These strategies promise to enhance learning and rekindle interest in the field of infectious diseases. Other subspecialty organizations should create similar teaching guidelines that will encourage future medical students to bring a richer understanding of clinical and basic science to the bedside.
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