change process, curriculum development awards, and high-quality processes for assessment of student learning. These characteristics are discussed in turn below.
The presence of strong leadership is commonly cited as a primary factor in achieving successful curriculum change (AAMC, 2000; Bland et al., 2000b; Dannefer et al., 1998; Skochelak et al., 2001). Throughout the twentieth century, the most important experiments in curriculum change at U.S. medical schools were led by deans committed to educational reform (AAMC, 2000). Such strong leaders with a clear vision and effective communication skills are essential for all curriculum reform efforts.
Leaders can be found throughout medical schools. They include faculty members and administrators who provide direction to educational programs and mentor junior colleagues interested in teaching (Wilkerson and Irby, 1998). To achieve change, the dean and other key leaders need to articulate clearly their support for educational change and take concrete steps to address faculty concerns.
One way to recognize and encourage faculty able to take on leadership roles in curriculum reform is to establish a career development awards program. Investing in the careers of potential leaders in a discipline is a powerful and proven strategy for advancing that discipline (Gruppen et al., 2003). Such awards provide funds for a faculty member’s time away from other commitments, allowing him or her to focus on developing leadership skills and ability, obtaining and refining relevant knowledge, designing educational methods, conducting relevant research, and designing curriculum. Award recipients may concentrate on one or two of these areas to develop expertise in the discipline at their institution and become the leader or champion of curriculum reform.
Faculty development and teaching scholar programs lasting a year or more have been successful in creating a cadre of educational leaders within a medical school (Gruppen et al., 2003; Steinert et al., 2003); however, there has been no such program for faculty in the behavioral and social sciences.
The career development award strategy can make it possible to reward scholarship in the teaching of the behavioral and social sciences and other activities that support learning in these disciplines.
Career development awards provide salary and other support for faculty members, allowing them to pursue the acquisition of new leadership skills, develop curriculum changes, or complete research projects. These awards have been used successfully to promote curriculum change and to enhance the careers of faculty in the pulmonary and cardiovascular sciences (ACS, 2003; NCI, 2000; NIH Guide, 2000; University of Wisconsin, 2003). Medical schools need to have a similar award system in the behavioral and social sciences to increase faculty knowledge in these disciplines and provide selected faculty the time and resources