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Student participation as a strategy for training leadership and becoming change agents

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Abstract
Background: The Lancet report requires medical faculties to train health professionals who have leadership attributes and who can act as change agents. Both the conceptual background of these requirements and the appropriate educational strategies are actually unclear. There is still a lot of debate on the concept of transformational leadership and how it could be learned (see Box C-1). Aim: To assess to what extent the different ways student participation in the medical training at Ghent University contributes to acquiring skills that could be useful for transformational leadership. Results: Medical students are organized via a Student Workgroup on Medical Education (SWME), founded in 1999. Students were very much involved in the fundamental curriculum reform that took place: from a traditional discipline-based curriculum towards an integrated contextual medical curriculum, organized in “units” and “lines” with a focus on problem and community orientation. Students participate in the committees that built the different “units” and “lines,” in the Educational Commission, in the Faculty Council, and in different, broader government structures of the university. SWME organizes monthly meetings, a research symposium, and a yearly seminar, where students spend 1 week of their holidays to study and analyze the actual curriculum and formulate proposals for improvement, presenting a 30- to 40- page report to the Educational Committee. This leads to a high degree of “ownership” of the curriculum by the students. In the recent reform from 7 to 6 years undergraduate training, the students formulated the first proposals for the new curriculum. Student-proposals are examined thoroughly and very often implemented partly or totally. Moreover, the students constructed the electronic repository of the learning materials of the whole curriculum, making it searchable for students and teachers. In a first attempt to assess what could be the effect, an exploratory questionnaire was sent to over 50 students who were active in SWME. A Likert-scale (1–5) was used to make the assessment. Four items focused on the function of a physician, and 20 items assessed the extent to which students felt their participation contributed to the development of some transformational leadership competencies. Students find that it is their responsibility to take initiatives to improve quality of care (4.52) and to improve accessibility of care (4.23). As far as the skills and competencies that the students learned through student participation were concerned, the highest scores were given to “dealing with decision making in an ethical way” (4.25), “defending the view points of the group I represent” (4.34), “formulating compromises when there are different opinions in a group” (4.15), “tackling problems in an effective way” (4.38), “ anticipating future developments” (4.18), “developing a vision for the future” (4.30), and “formulating proposals for improvement” (4.33). From the free-text comments it became clear that students were able to illustrate with concrete examples what those skills and competences meant and how they had been developed. Especially the importance of the SWME-meetings, the 1-week SWME seminar, participation in commission and working parties, being involved in curriculum reform, and representing fellow students was illustrated frequently. From the responses it became clear the students acquired several leadership skills, and they learned to act as change agents. Conclusion: Student participation in the development and quality assurance of the medical curriculum, and the existence of a formal student organization, together with an open attitude of the staff towards student participation, may contribute to the learning of transformational leadership. It will be important to look how these skills will further develop during specialty training and in professional life. BOX C-1: Definition of Transformational Leadership Jan De Maeseneer, Ghent University, and Dawn Forman, Curtin University, proposed the following definition for transformational leadership: Transformational leadership occurs when leaders articulate the purpose and the mission interactively (Gumusluoglu and Ilsev, 2009) with the group and are intellectually stimulating the group, championing innovation, and inspiring group members to become change agents. Transformational leadership is characterized by connecting the member's sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization by being a role model for the group members that inspires them and keeps them interested. Transformational leadership challenges group members to take greater ownership and strategic understanding of the context, the strengths and the weaknesses that have to be addressed in the change process. Transformational leadership creates a climate of trust, a process of empowerment, and guarantees safety so that group members can look beyond their own self-interest (Bass and Avolio, 1994) in order to make change happen.
Keywords
transformative learning, Student participation, Leadership

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
De Maeseneer, Jan, Sofie Dhaese, Inge Van de Caveye, et al. “Student Participation as a Strategy for Training Leadership and Becoming Change Agents.” Assessing Health Professional Education : Workshop Summary. Ed. Patricia A Cuff. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press, 2014. 82–83. Print.
APA
De Maeseneer, Jan, Dhaese, S., Van de Caveye, I., Vergauwe, B., & Bogaert, S. (2014). Student participation as a strategy for training leadership and becoming change agents. In P. A. Cuff (Ed.), Assessing health professional education : workshop summary (pp. 82–83). Presented at the Assessing Health Professional Education, Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press.
Chicago author-date
De Maeseneer, Jan, Sofie Dhaese, Inge Van de Caveye, Bart Vergauwe, and Sarah Bogaert. 2014. “Student Participation as a Strategy for Training Leadership and Becoming Change Agents.” In Assessing Health Professional Education : Workshop Summary, ed. Patricia A Cuff, 82–83. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
De Maeseneer, Jan, Sofie Dhaese, Inge Van de Caveye, Bart Vergauwe, and Sarah Bogaert. 2014. “Student Participation as a Strategy for Training Leadership and Becoming Change Agents.” In Assessing Health Professional Education : Workshop Summary, ed. Patricia A Cuff, 82–83. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press.
Vancouver
1.
De Maeseneer J, Dhaese S, Van de Caveye I, Vergauwe B, Bogaert S. Student participation as a strategy for training leadership and becoming change agents. In: Cuff PA, editor. Assessing health professional education : workshop summary. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press; 2014. p. 82–3.
IEEE
[1]
J. De Maeseneer, S. Dhaese, I. Van de Caveye, B. Vergauwe, and S. Bogaert, “Student participation as a strategy for training leadership and becoming change agents,” in Assessing health professional education : workshop summary, Washington, DC, USA, 2014, pp. 82–83.
@inproceedings{4381879,
  abstract     = {{Background: The Lancet report requires medical faculties to train health professionals who have leadership attributes and who can act as change agents. Both the conceptual background of these requirements and the appropriate educational strategies are actually unclear. There is still a lot of debate on the concept of transformational leadership and how it could be learned (see Box C-1).
Aim: To assess to what extent the different ways student participation in the medical training at Ghent University contributes to acquiring skills that could be useful for transformational leadership.
Results: Medical students are organized via a Student Workgroup on Medical Education (SWME), founded in 1999. Students were very much involved in the fundamental curriculum reform that took place: from a traditional discipline-based curriculum towards an integrated contextual medical curriculum, organized in “units” and “lines” with a focus on problem and community orientation. Students participate in the committees that built the different “units” and “lines,” in the Educational Commission, in the Faculty Council, and in different, broader government structures of the university. SWME organizes monthly meetings, a research symposium, and a yearly seminar, where students spend 1 week of their holidays to study and analyze the actual curriculum and formulate proposals for improvement, presenting a 30- to 40- page report to the Educational Committee. This leads to a high degree of “ownership” of the curriculum by the students. In the recent reform from 7 to 6 years undergraduate training, the students formulated the first proposals for the new curriculum. Student-proposals are examined thoroughly and very often implemented partly or totally. Moreover, the students constructed the electronic repository of the learning materials of the whole curriculum, making it searchable for students and teachers.
In a first attempt to assess what could be the effect, an exploratory questionnaire was sent to over 50 students who were active in SWME. A Likert-scale (1–5) was used to make the assessment. Four items focused on the function of a physician, and 20 items assessed the extent to which students felt their participation contributed to the development of some transformational leadership competencies.
Students find that it is their responsibility to take initiatives to improve quality of care (4.52) and to improve accessibility of care (4.23). As far as the skills and competencies that the students learned through student participation were concerned, the highest scores were given to “dealing with decision making in an ethical way” (4.25), “defending the view points of the group I represent” (4.34), “formulating compromises when there are different opinions in a group” (4.15), “tackling problems in an effective way” (4.38), “ anticipating future developments” (4.18), “developing a vision for the future” (4.30), and “formulating proposals for improvement” (4.33).
From the free-text comments it became clear that students were able to illustrate with concrete examples what those skills and competences meant and how they had been developed. Especially the importance of the SWME-meetings, the 1-week SWME seminar, participation in commission and working parties, being involved in curriculum reform, and representing fellow students was illustrated frequently.
From the responses it became clear the students acquired several leadership skills, and they learned to act as change agents.
Conclusion: Student participation in the development and quality assurance of the medical curriculum, and the existence of a formal student organization, together with an open attitude of the staff towards student participation, may contribute to the learning of transformational leadership. It will be important to look how these skills will further develop during specialty training and in professional life.
BOX C-1: Definition of Transformational Leadership
Jan De Maeseneer, Ghent University, and Dawn Forman, Curtin University, proposed the following definition for transformational leadership:
Transformational leadership occurs when leaders articulate the purpose and the mission interactively (Gumusluoglu and Ilsev, 2009) with the group and are intellectually stimulating the group, championing innovation, and inspiring group members to become change agents. Transformational leadership is characterized by connecting the member's sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization by being a role model for the group members that inspires them and keeps them interested. Transformational leadership challenges group members to take greater ownership and strategic understanding of the context, the strengths and the weaknesses that have to be addressed in the change process. Transformational leadership creates a climate of trust, a process of empowerment, and guarantees safety so that group members can look beyond their own self-interest (Bass and Avolio, 1994) in order to make change happen.}},
  author       = {{De Maeseneer, Jan and Dhaese, Sofie and Van de Caveye, Inge and Vergauwe, Bart and Bogaert, Sarah}},
  booktitle    = {{Assessing health professional education : workshop summary}},
  editor       = {{Cuff, Patricia A}},
  isbn         = {{9780309302531}},
  keywords     = {{transformative learning,Student participation,Leadership}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  location     = {{Washington, DC, USA}},
  pages        = {{82--83}},
  publisher    = {{National Academies Press}},
  title        = {{Student participation as a strategy for training leadership and becoming change agents}},
  year         = {{2014}},
}