Rush Medical College: Teacher-Learner Relationship

Expectations for the Teacher-Learner Relationship
Rush Medical College has a long-standing tradition of valuing and creating a productive and positive learning environment for its students – this environment is an institutional asset that is vital to carrying out our missions in teaching, patient care, and research. The relationship between teachers and learners should be based on mutual trust, respect, and responsibility. The expectations for maintaining a professional teacher-learner relationship are relevant to all faculty, residents, staff, and students who participate in educational activities in the classroom, laboratory, research, or clinical settings where there is a focus on education, patient care, and ethical conduct.

Expectations for Learners
Students are expected to participate in the learning process in an active, respectful and professional manner. Students' motivation and actions should be appropriately directed at gaining the knowledge, skills, and values that are required to become a competent, ethical, and compassionate physician. This includes the following:

  • Being adequately prepared for learning activities in the classroom, laboratory, research, and clinical settings,
  • Treating faculty, residents, staff, and fellow students with respect and collegiality,
  • Actively and appropriately seeking information to improve their own performance,
  • Reflecting on their performance and educational experiences to inform their self-directed learning and study,
  • Adhering to the tenets of the “University Statement on Student Conduct” and the “University Statement on Academic Honesty,” as well as the student-authored “Student Honor Code,“
  • Resolving conflict in an appropriate and professional manner, and
  • Providing constructive feedback and evaluation about their learning experiences.

Expectations for Teachers
Teachers are expected to participate in the learning process in an active, respectful and professional manner. Faculty, residents, and staff who work with students and residents are charged with helping these learners to become competent, ethical, and compassionate physicians. This includes the following:

  • Being adequately prepared for learning activities in the classroom, laboratory, research, and clinical settings,
  • Treating learners and fellow teachers with respect and collegiality,
  • Providing learners with clear expectations for performance, and when applicable, a detailed, written outline of course objectives and expectations,
  • Providing learners with ongoing, specific and constructive feedback about their performance,
  • Reflecting on their teaching to inform their own self-directed learning and study,
  • Actively participating in the development and improvement of courses and their content,
  • Timely completion of fair and accurate evaluation of student performance,
  • Holding students accountable to the tenets of the “University Statement on Student Conduct” and the “University Statement on Academic Honesty,” as well as the student-authored “Student Honor Code,“
  • Resolving conflict in an appropriate and professional manner, and
  • Utilizing feedback and evaluation to improve their teaching.

Behaviors that Undermine Productive Teacher-Learner Relationships
It is the policy of Rush Medical College that behaviors that undermine productive teacher-learner relationships such as violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse must never be tolerated. Student abuse may be verbal, psychological or physical. It includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, discrimination due to age, racial and ethnic background, religion, national origin, or disability. It is understood that all personnel will treat students in a collegial and professional manner. Other types of behavior can be inappropriate if the effect interferes with professional development. Behaviors such as making demeaning or derogatory remarks, belittling comments or destructive criticism fall into this category.

Student abuse includes but is not limited to treating students in a harmful, injurious or offensive way: attacking in words, speaking insultingly, harshly or unjustly to or about a student1, reviling or demeaning a student, undermining the self esteem or confidence of a student. Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to: offensive comments to or about the student; unwanted attention or unwelcome verbal advances; unwanted persistent invitations; unwelcome, explicit propositions; offensive displays; offensive body language; unwanted physical advances; and/or sexual bribery.2 Abuse and harassment create a hostile environment in which to work, and are also addressed in the Rush University Medical Center Policies and Procedures. It is understood that incidents of abuse or harassment may cover a spectrum from flagrant to ambiguous. The abuser may be a member of the faculty, a resident, a nurse, another student, a member of the administration, a hospital employee, or even a patient. Examples of inappropriate behaviors are:

  1. physical punishment or physical threats,
  2. sexual harassment,
  3. discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, sexual orientation, or physical disabilities,
  4. repeated episodes of psychological punishment of a student by a superior (e.g. public humiliation, threats and intimidation, removal of privileges),
  5. grading used to punish a student rather than to evaluate objective performance,
  6. assigning tasks for punishment rather than educational purposes,
  7. requiring the performance of personal services,
  8. taking credit for another individual's work,
  9. intentional neglect or intentional lack of communication.

While providing critique is part of the learning process, in order to be effective and constructive, it should be handled in a way to promote learning and maintain a positive learning environment. Feedback should focus on behavior rather than personal characteristics.

Procedures for Reporting Allegations of Mistreatment
The reporting and resolution sections of this policy are designed to protect students from retaliation and to protect those charged with abuse from unfair accusations. The name of the student, the reporting individual, and the alleged abuser will be held in strict confidence on a need-to-know basis.

An incident of abuse may be reported by the student or by an individual who witnessed the incident of abuse. An incident can be reported directly to the Office of Medical Student Programs. An incident reported to a trusted faculty member, a class officer, a member of academic administration, or a friend should be reported to the Office of Medical Student Programs.

A complaint of harassment may be submitted either orally or in writing to the Office of Medical Student Programs by an individual who claims to have been harassed ("the complainant") or by a faculty advisor, a member of the administration, or another person authorized by the complainant to act on his/her behalf. The complaint should be submitted within 180 days after the alleged harassment occurs. However submitted, the complainant's name and specific allegations must be provided for further processing to occur.

If the complaint of harassment is submitted by someone other than the complainant, the individual submitting the complaint shall be informed of the policies against harassment and retaliation and shall be advised that:

  1. The complaint cannot be processed further without the complainant's specific consent; and
  2. The complainant should contact the Office of Medical Student Programs if he/she wants to proceed.

Procedures for Resolution of Mistreatment Allegations
Reported incidents will be reviewed with the student(s) involved in the situation to determine their level of commitment and concern in pursuing a report.

In every case where the complainant wants to proceed with a complaint, the Office of Medical Student Programs shall inform the complainant of the policies against harassment and retaliation and shall advise the complainant of the following options to promote internal resolution of a complaint:

1. Informal Resolution
The Office of Medical Student Programs or its designee will attempt to resolve the complaint through informal methods, including but not limited to discussion with the accused (with or without identifying the complainant) and appropriate administrative staff; discussion with the complainant; and/or, if all parties agree, mediation of the complaint involving the participation of the complainant, accused, and appropriate administrators. No complaint may be terminated through informal methods without the voluntary consent of the complainant.

2. Formal Investigation and Resolution
In the event the complaint is not resolved informally and the complainant wishes to proceed, a formal investigation will be undertaken by the Office of Medical Student Programs, involving Faculty Council and the Dean of Rush Medical College. The investigation will be handled confidentially to the extent possible, but the Office of Legal Affairs shall be kept advised as necessary.

Prohibition Against Retaliation
This policy prohibits any individual from engaging, whether directly or indirectly, in retaliatory conduct against an individual who brings a complaint or provides information during an investigation of such a complaint. “Retaliatory conduct” is conduct that adversely and unjustifiably affects the terms and conditions of another's education status, quality of life, or education experience and that is motivated by an intent to cause harm because of the targeted individual's involvement in the filing or investigation of a complaint about mistreatment. Students who believe that retaliatory actions have been taken against them because they have filed a complaint or provided information related to a complaint should communicate their concerns immediately to the Office of Medical Student Programs.

1 Silver, HK, Glicken, AD. Medical student abuse, JAMA 263: 527-532, 1990.

2 Komaroy, M, Bindman , AB , Haber, RJ, Sande, MA . Sexual harassment in medical training. NEJM 328: 322-326, 1993.

Sections of this policy have been adapted from the teacher-learner relationship policies from the UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School, Drexel University School of Medicine, and Georgetown University School of Medicine and from the Rush University Policy and Procedures Concerning Sexual and other Harassment.

Adopted November 2004