The importance of interaction

Mohammed Khalil believes in involving his biomedical science students in the process

A word that comes up often when Mohammed Khalil talks about his teaching style is interactive.

Khalil, a clinical associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine - Greenville, believes his students understand concepts better when they’re active participants in absorbing information. Innovations he embraced to foster this participation, including self-learning modules and computer-based labs, have borne out this theory and garnered him a 2017 Garnet Apple award.

“I have not had a bad student,” Khalil says. “Not all of them have the background. When I’m teaching histology, some of them don’t even know what that is. Reading the textbook was not going to work to prepare for classes, so I thought, ‘Let me think about something different.’ ”

Students use the self-learning modules with embedded formative quizzes to prepare for in-class sessions. Follow-up activities occur in labs designed to foster collaboration between students while providing guidance and clinical relevance. Students divide into groups and study slides at their own pace, eventually solving cases and using software to create a report on what they’ve accomplished. Groups then share information.

“If you think about the students of today, they like to work in a group,” Khalil says. “They like guidance or direction, but they like to do many things themselves. They like to have some control, and they like to use the technology more.”

I help them, and at the same time, I learn from them what they need.

Mohammed Khalil 

Khalil’s curriculum vitae is littered with teaching awards and student testimonials that prove his philosophy works. And he puts that philosophy into practice outside of the classroom, working with students throughout the medical school as a student success program director to identify weaknesses that may be causing them to struggle.

“I do a kind of mini-interview to figure out what is missing for them, what is the skill that is missing,” he says. “It maybe has to do with time management or adaptation to the medical school or maybe attitude. I get to know the student and then I give them coaching or guidance.”

Such interaction also informs Khalil’s teaching direction.

“I help them, and at the same time, I learn from them what they need,” he says.

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