Styles of Learning and Teaching

Learning in the program will be interesting and challenging. It will sometimes be fun, and sometimes it will seem to be chaotic and difficult. Inevitably there will times when you will be confused and unsure of how it all adds up. At other times you will experience the excitement of understanding an issue and seeing the pieces fit together, and the satisfaction of mastering new skills and integrating them into your developing practice. Learning in this program will change the way you look at the world, other people, yourself, and the medical profession.


The program aims to support your development in eight capability areas that capture UNSW Medicine’s goals for you as a medical graduate:

  • Using Basic and Clinical Sciences in the Practice of Medicine
  • Understanding the Social and Cultural Aspects of Health and Disease
  • Patient Assessment and Management
  • Effective Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Self-Directed Learning and Critical Evaluation
  • Ethics and Legal Responsibilities
  • Development as a Reflective Practitioner


The program has been designed so that you have time to complete your project and assignment work, and to extend your study of the material introduced in lectures, tutorials, practical classes, on-line activities and clinical experiences. Most teaching sessions will include suggestions of papers, texts or websites that complement or extend the material covered, and it is expected that you will undertake further study based on these suggestions in the areas that you are curious about, or that you feel you don't understand well enough.


The Medicine program utilises blended learning, which we define as an educational delivery model using a variety of learning activities that effectively integrates both online and face-to-face learning, where both these modes support and reinforce one another to create meaningful educational experiences for students. You will therefore be expected to engage individually and collaboratively with online interactive resources prior to, during or after scheduled learning activities. Many online resources developed by UNSW Medicine also provide a means to obtain individualised feedback on your learning.


The coherence of the program depends on you taking initiative. The program gives you the freedom to study more widely and deeply in areas that you judge will benefit your development as a medical professional. At the same time, it does not dictate exactly what you should read or how much you should study. These are decisions you are best placed to make, and making them is an important part of your development in the capabilities of ‘Self direction and critical evaluation’ and ‘Development as a reflective practitioner’.


Each course gives you the freedom and the responsibility to focus and direct your own learning to some extent. This raises some interesting issues for the assessment system. You will find that the Course and Phase examinations may go a little beyond what has been studied in class. Your wider and deeper reading will stand you in good stead in these assessments, giving you extended knowledge and insights that you can draw upon when formulating your responses. The grading system has been designed to reward responses that demonstrate an understanding of concepts and processes that go beyond what is expected from students at each Phase. In this way the program will reward your initiative while encouraging your development as a self-directed learner.



The program incorporates a number of innovative educational elements designed to support your development in these capabilities:

  • The Foundations course will introduce you to the teaching approaches and styles of learning in the program, especially blended learning.
  • The emphasis on small group teaching will give you opportunities to engage in discussion and debate on the issues that arise in each course.
  • The organisation of the program into three Phases enables the style of teaching to vary to match your learning needs as they develop through the program.
  • The multi-year composition of many teaching groups in the program will give you the opportunity to work with others who are more or less experienced than yourself, or who have expertise in different areas.
  • The portfolio assessment approach across all Phases of the program will help you to focus on the capability indicators in each Phase and to develop as a reflective practitioner of medicine. The portfolio is designed to help you drive your learning and to reflect on your progress.
  • The life cycle structure of the curriculum will provide a broad framework for organising your knowledge and skills.

All these are intended to support you as you work to achieve the expectations of the capabilities of graduates from the program.

When you graduate, we want you to be a confident and proficient practitioner in all the capability areas, and a reflective and autonomous learner who will continue to develop as a medical professional throughout your career.

Rather than using a single style of learning and teaching, the program employs a range of approaches designed to encourage you to become progressively more independent and reflective in your development as a medical professional. Each Phase of the program has its own style of learning and teaching.


Phase 1: Scenario based learning

Teaching in Phase 1 is organised around scenarios which present authentic issues faced by medical practitioners. You will be encouraged to discuss these scenarios in your scenario groups, and to reflect on the issues that they raise. Through a series of learning activities - lectures, tutorials, practicals, on-line activities and scenario group sessions - you will explore the key issues and concepts that will eventually be examined at the end of each course. You will also be able to choose to pursue topics that interest you through your project and assignment work. The scenarios and other learning activities have been designed to widen your understanding of medical practice, while providing you with a sound introduction to the sciences and skills of modern medicine. Courses in Teaching Periods 3 and 4, will have a mix of first-year and second-year students that participate in small group learning activities. The mix of students and the planned learning activities will give you realistic opportunities to develop your teamwork, communication and reflection capabilities.


Phase 2: Practice based learning

In this Phase, you will spend more time in actual clinical and practical experiences. You will use these experiences to refine your developing medical knowledge. You will be able to pursue topics of interest through assignments and group projects. Small group tutorials and case method tutorials will help you combine the acquisition of clinical skills with continued learning about the scientific and social mechanisms underlying health and disease. During Phase 2, real clinical experiences will form the focus of your reflections.


During Phase 2, you will undertake an Independent Learning Project or Honours Degree. This is an opportunity to focus on an in-depth study of a topic of your choosing. You can choose to pursue a laboratory-based project in the medical sciences, or investigate issues in the social sciences, humanities, clinical medicine or another discipline, which is directly relevant to the practice of medicine. The Independent Learning Project or Honours Degree is an opportunity for you to develop your research and reporting skills while exploring in depth an area of medical practice that interests you.


Phase 3: Independent reflective learning

In this Phase, you will be attached to clinical teams where you will learn by doing and by pursuing learning projects related to the team’s work and to the settings in which they are located, including hospital-based and ambulatory settings. In this Phase, much of your work will be negotiated with your clinical supervisors. Towards the end of the Phase, after you have completed your examinations and the portfolio assessment, you will be able to concentrate on preparing for the transition to the intern role in the Preparation for Internship (PRINT) course.

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