- The TLA is a mutual pledge between teachers and students about their shared obligations in teaching, learning, research and clinical care.
- The TLA is also a reminder that duty, integrity and respect are values of fundamental importance to medical education.
What are some of the things it says that teachers should do?
- Treat students fairly, respectfully and without bias related to age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, spiritual or political beliefs, disability or country of origin;
- Maintain high professional standards in all interactions with patients, students, colleagues and staff;
- Practice insightful (Socratic) questioning, which stimulates learning and self-discovery and avoid overly aggressive questioning which may be perceived as hurtful, humiliating, degrading or punitive.
The TLA lists additional responsibilities, which include providing explicit learning expectations, timely and constructive feedback and thoughtful and timely evaluations. Teachers are also expected to disclose to students, during lectures, seminars and mentored research activities, the existence of any financial ties or conflicts-of-interest that are related to the material being taught.
Teachers should also be familiar with the processes and resources of the Student Honor Council and the Student Professionalism Committee. Faculty should utilize appropriate mechanisms to encourage students who experience mistreatment or who witness unprofessional behavior to report the facts immediately (for example, to the Office of Professionalism, a trusted faculty or staff member, or the online professionalism reporting system) and to treat all such reports as confidential.
What do students have to do?
Treat teachers and fellow students fairly, respectfully and without bias related to age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, spiritual or political beliefs, disability or country of origin.
- Demonstrate professional behavior in all settings.
- Be active, enthusiastic, curious learners who work to enhance a positive learning environment.
The TLA lists additional responsibilities for students, including: recognizing personal limitations and seeking help when needed; providing teachers and the SOM with constructive feedback; and recognizing that not all learning stems from formal and structured activities. Students are also expected to demonstrate a commitment to life-long learning, uphold the honor code and be familiar with mechanisms to report exemplary professionalism and professionalism lapses.
What else does the Teacher-Learner Agreement say?
- Students and teachers must avoid any and all behaviors that conceivably could lead to the perception of a boundaries violation such as:
- Romantic involvements;
- Business relationships, other than those that might emerge from joint educational projects;
- Faculty or students accepting services or personal favors from each other (for example, babysitting, house sitting, pet care or work in the office);
- Accepting substantial gifts;
- Special treatment of a student, including gifts, meals, entertainment or social contacts, that differs substantially from the usual teacher-learner relationship with other students;
- Students and teachers should avoid the potential conflict of interest whereby a student’s healthcare provider is also evaluating a student’s academic or clinical performance in a teaching role.
Does this mean I can’t have lunch with a medical student or invite students to my house for dinner?
No, but you have to use good judgment to maintain appropriate boundaries. There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some red flags that may indicate possible boundary violations:
- Repeated social contacts with one student;
- Social contacts that are not related to mentorship, teaching or learning;
- Social contacts that would not be arranged with other students;
- Contacts that feature alcohol as a central activity;
- Contacts that are more for you than for the student;
- Social contacts that are starting to feel like dating.
Where can I find the Teacher-Learner Agreement?
The TLA is posted on the Faculty Professionalism website. Faculty members must also acknowledge their understanding of the TLA annually, as one of the final steps in the PRiSM performance review process. If you have questions or concerns about the TLA, you may contact Wendy Madigosky, Brian Dwinnell or Steven Lowenstein.