Engagement is key for teaching success

Mia Lang encourages learners to take ownership of their education

Tamara Vineberg - 07 December 2018

For Mia Lang, teaching is an engaging role. The associate professor in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics makes a point of understanding who her students are and what they want to achieve. At the Royal Alexandra Hospital teaching clinic, Lang meets one on one with each of the students at the beginning of their rotation and also does a mini debrief at the end of every clinic.

"I try to have the student take ownership of their own learning. It's not just me teaching them. It's about them identifying their own learning goals and supporting them to meet those goals. You want to make it as active and engaging as possible, but they are taking responsibility for it, too," says Lang.

She talks from experience as she spent almost 20 years as a learner in post-secondary education. In addition to her medical degree, she obtained a master's degree from the University of Ottawa and a PhD in physiology from the University of Calgary. She fell in love with academic community-based pediatrics after seeing how family centred care worked and how the Department of Pediatrics provided the opportunity to blend her career with teaching and research.

"I was really excited to become a general pediatrician. As a general pediatrician, to be able to have that continuity and that longitudinal relationship with a family - that is amazing," she says.

Lang, who is also associate dean of faculty development for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has taken her passion and passed it along to her learners. She was recognized for her efforts with a Top 10 Teachers Award at the June 6, 2018 Department of Pediatrics Faculty Appreciation & Recognition Dinner.

One of her ideas was developing a challenge for residents to personally understand the social determinants of health such as family income, food security and transportation. The Amazing Race for Health Advocacy divides residents into teams, each with a different challenge. For example, they could be asked to purchase food on a very limited budget or take public transportation to access the food bank.

Lang was advised in a peer consultation program that she should not overwhelm students with too much feedback and any assessment should be accompanied with actionable items. "It's about assessment for learning as opposed to assessment of learning. I'm giving you some information that you can use for your own learning," she says.

What she loves about teaching is witnessing the "Ah ha" moment in a student's face as they grasp a difficult concept. "When you see that joy in their face, it's a wonderful thing," says Lang.