Feature: Kick-starting education research

The Faculty Support for Research in Education (FSRE) grants provide support for rising education leaders at the School and serve as a catalyst for new and innovative education research, while supporting a goal within the School’s new five-year strategic plan.

In place for more than a decade, the annual funding provides the essential start-up funding to get some innovative studies underway. 

In 2021, Dr. Robin Mackin’s project focused on resident and faculty perceptions of coaching after enrolment in a longitudinal coaching program was one of three funded projects. 

The principles of the coaching program were modelled after those that currently exist in areas such as business and sport and developed to reflect the cultural differences and needs within a medical program. It was established to support paediatric residents through various components of competency-based medical education. Twenty-three residents were matched with faculty coaches and met every three to four months to discuss goals and progress. 

“The conversations between the resident and their coach are focused on learning goals, performance improvement and provide an opportunity for reflection,” said Mackin. 

Coaches also communicate with the department competency committee and serve as a bridge between the data compiled on assessments and the committee interpreting the data. 

Mackin says that the FSRE funding was an essential ingredient to getting the study off the ground and allowed them to put together a scholarly opportunity to better understand the role and value of coaching in medicine.  

A year after receiving that support, Mackin is looking forward to analyzing the data and is enthusiastically moving the coaching program forward with any modifications that arise from ongoing feedback.  

In 2022, three new FSRE grants were awarded. 

Fabiana Caetano Crowley, PhD, and her co-investigators Dr. Michele Weir and Teresa Van Deven, PhD, will be advancing their project: Assessing adaptive expertise in the undergraduate medical curriculum. 

Christine Bell, PhD, and her co-investigator Dr. Cecilia Dong will be working on: Focus and Feedback: Does Interventional Mindfulness Improve Student Feedback Literacy and Enrich Learning?

And, Dr. Abbas Jessani and co-investigator Nedra Peter, PhD, will be exploring The state of the 2SLGBTQ+ Curriculum in Canadian Dental Schools: what are the gaps and the next steps?

As a self-identified gay man of colour, Jessani says he knows the challenges that people go through in accessing health care services. 

“I have been left feeling stereotyped and judged during my own health care experiences,” he said. 

Meanwhile, his research for often-stigmatized populations has revealed astonishing findings on how community members continue to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in receiving care. 

“I believe by looking into the dental curriculum, we can begin to make change. We have to train our dental students to provide risk based person-centred care, and changing the curriculum will help.

Jessani’s year-long study will be the first step, collecting data to better understand what the current dental school curriculums in Canada offer. And while he anticipates gaps will be found, he wants to identify them so that solutions can be developed.  

“Once we understand the landscape, we can begin our planning to do follow up, which could include additional studies and the development of curriculum and projects that will help us,” he said. 

Jessani is grateful for the FSRE funding that will support the hiring of a student researcher who has lived experience to work on the project. 

He’s pleased and proud that the School, and more broadly Western, are focused on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and that funding is being invested to make change. 

“We are doing really good work on EDI from all different levels,” he said.