minders, have been found effective in changing teachers’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills (Wilkerson and Irby, 1998).
Medical schools that have incorporated the behavioral and social sciences into their curricula have also provided instructional improvement grants designed to motivate faculty to work on targeted areas of curriculum management. Academies of medical educators at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical School and Harvard Medical School are just two examples of this trend toward providing incentives for change. At Harvard, the academy provides direct support to a select group of faculty members for their talent in and dedication to education. This mechanism rewards teaching faculty, fosters educational innovation, and provides a forum for the exchange of ideas related to medical education that crosses departmental and institutional lines (Thibault et al., 2003). Similarly, the academy at UCSF fosters excellence in teaching by supporting and rewarding talented teachers (Cooke et al., 2003). Although neither program focuses solely on the behavioral and social sciences, the academy at UCSF has funded curriculum development in the behavioral and social sciences as part of its mini-grant program. In addition, UCSF initiated a mentoring program for junior faculty members built around peer observation of the junior faculty’s teaching abilities, although this program is not directed at the behavioral and social sciences. When such a program is well organized, a positive association is found between participation in the program and career satisfaction in medical schools (Chew et al., 2003; Palepu et al., 1996; Pololi et al., 2002).
One high-priority area for faculty development that is especially important for the behavioral and social sciences is assessment (discussed more fully below). Medical educators should strongly consider increasing their faculty development efforts to improve the skills of their faculty in writing test questions in the behavioral and social sciences. Additionally, medical school faculty should be provided the resources and support needed to eliminate flawed multiple-choice questions from their tests (Downing, 2002a,b). To this end, faculty development should include not only training in how to write high-quality test questions in the behavioral and social sciences, but also feedback to the authors of those questions. Faculty development staff should include individuals who have been trained in test writing and measurement of student performance. Data derived from student feedback on the fairness of test questions can be used in the continuing dialogue between faculty development staff and the authors of the questions. Student assessment can also be improved through workshops that provide training in writing test questions. The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), for example, offers such workshops to help faculty construct better-quality multiple-choice questions in the basic and clinical sciences (NBME, 2003) and could serve as a similar resource for the writing of test questions in the behavioral and social sciences. Yet funds for faculty development to improve test-writing skills, and thus student assessment, continue to be scarce (Downing, 2002b).