Editorial Board Q & A: Karen V. Mann

Karen Mann photo
Karen V. Mann, PhD, professor emeritus, division of medical education, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine

1. Describe your current activities.

My current areas of research encompass both continuing interests and new areas of involvement. For almost 10 years, I have had a research interest in two closely related areas: self-assessment and feedback. The work originated in 2004 with the work of a team led by Joan Sargeant. The team conducted a pilot study of a multisource feedback process for practising physicians when this process was introduced into my home province. During the piloting of the process, we were puzzled as to why it seemed difficult for people to hear feedback that they could accept, incorporate, and use to improve their practice. An important part of this research seemed to be the individuals’ self-assessment, how they made judgements of their own performance, and the resulting distress when their own self-assessment was not matched by assessments that others made of them. It also appeared that the opportunity for facilitated reflection enabled greater acceptance of the feedback. Our studies both informed and convinced us of the importance of feedback in self-assessment.

Our team progressed from there to study the effective giving and seeking of feedback, particularly in the context of residency education. Throughout these studies we had become aware that it might be timely to consider a new model of feedback that would include a deliberate component of reflection and coaching to help individuals incorporate feedback and use it effectively. We developed such a model, which we are now testing in 5 sites, both in North America and Europe, to determine its utility for both the feedback giver and the recipient. Some colleagues and I have also become interested in the idea of teaching and learning of empathy, especially teachers’ perceptions of teaching and learning of empathy as it relates to becoming a professional. I am currently leading a qualitative study in this area. It is rewarding and stimulating to have new questions arise as one’s work progresses, and to have the opportunity to pursue these questions.

2. What gaps do you see in today’s scholarship?

The literature in medical education is growing at a rate which far exceeds one’s ability to know of everything that is published. I think we still have some challenges connecting the literature that comes from North America with that emerging internationally. I would like to see more reports of longitudinal studies of, for example, interprofessional education programs that have demonstrated sustained effectiveness, or of the long term effects of innovations like longitudinal integrated clerkships. Our curricular decisions would benefit from this information.

3. Why do you read Academic Medicine?

I read Academic Medicine for many reasons. On a practical note, I find the AM Last Page feature to be of great value in my teaching. It often provides an excellent overview of a topic, or a starting point for a group discussion. I also read the journal to understand current thinking and areas of study that are emerging in medical education. I appreciate the breadth of topics and wide audience that the journal attracts.

4. What issues will we be reading about in five years?

I wish I had a crystal ball! I hope it would tell me that we will read more literature that draws on other fields, including the learning sciences, social sciences, and others. This will help us view our work and ourselves through new lenses, and apply new understandings to our educational work.

5. What book(s) are you reading right now?

I am currently very interested in learning more about the development of professional identity, and I am reading Dorothy Holland’s Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. I’ve also been reading Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. I was attracted to this book after reading a paper by the same authors in the Harvard Business Review! Lastly, I’ve been enjoying Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter Brown and Henry Roediger. Too many books – too little time!

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