Innovative Approach: Kids Teach Students the Basics of Pediatrics

May 2, 2019 by School of Medicine Webmaster

(l-r) Rebecca Scharf, MD; Laurie Archbald-Pannone, MD; and Mary Kate Worden, PhD

Every year for one instruction period, children are the teachers to our first-year medical students.

Newborns, infants, toddlers, children, tweens, and teens visit the class. They teach students about gross- and fine-motor skills, and about language, cognitive, and social-emotional development. While the youngest children demonstrate how to turn their head or push up off the floor and crawl, the older ones speak, draw, skip, and do complex tasks with varying degrees of accomplishment. The children bring liveliness, fun, and sometimes a bit of chaos to the classroom, which creates a great learning atmosphere.

The class is a smash hit with our first-year medical students. What could be dry, rote memorization (“X skill should be developed by Y age.”), has been turned into a memorable, vivid way to learn typical child development.

UVA School of Medicine panel of experts on the topic of Being a Kid.

This highly interactive class covering pediatric developmental milestones combines theoretical knowledge with the power of observation. For example, after studying the neural network of a 2-year-old child, students then get to watch a 2-year-old in action.

Young guest lecturers patiently await their turn to teach.

Mary Kate Worden, PhD, Associate Professor of Medical Education and Director of Curriculum Integration and Development; Rebecca Scharf, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Laurie Archbald-Pannone, MD, Professor of Medicine; Valentina Intagliata, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; and Johanna Craig, PhD, Instructional Technology Specialist are the development team for this class.

The team plans to accumulate quantitative and longitudinal data to better assess the efficacy of these learning and teaching methods. I look forward to seeing those results.

Until then, I offer a sincere thank you to the developers for their vision, dedication, and hard work in creating this class. Thank you to the parents of our tiny instructors as well; without their help, this class would not be possible!

Below are great video examples of what the class looks like.

Gross Motor Skills


Fine Motor Skills


How Old Is Charlie?


R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Filed Under: Education