Learning (teaching, education & supervision)

‘The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to learn; the man who has learned how to adapt and change; the man who has realised that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security.’ Carl Rogers 1967

This page a collection of arts resources to help you think about the concept of learning. (If you want to learn about educational theory there are some great online resources  and this small easy to read book is a great start Learning A very Short Introduction by Mark Haselgrove)

I love this Einstein quote, ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’

If you want to think more about your role as a teacher or clinical supervisor look at some of the resources on the power and culture pages.

BMJ cover
BMJ cover

How do you learn to be a good enough doctor?

What is the role of a supervisor/mentor/teacher in your learning?

How do you know you are good enough?


Whenever I’m planning an educational event or my own learning, I’m reminded of Alice’s discussion with the Cheshire Cat. (in Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

“Cheshire Puss” she began rather timidly as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. Come, it’s pleased so far thought Alice and she went on. “Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat

When you set to learn something new do you know where you want to get to?

Roger Kneebone's book Expert

Roger Kneebone’s book Expert sets the scene perfectly, it is both educational and entertaining. He narrates his experience of observing how master craftsmen learn their trade and applies this knowledge to help doctors understand how they might become expert in the art of medicine. It should be on every doctor’s reading list.

I’ve found his stories bring clarity to tricky training issues and think this quote is particularly helpful when considering the role of a clinical or educational supervisor.

It’s not just enough to put in the hours, your practice must be sustained, deliberate, supported by expert feedback and carried out with the intention to improve.

Photo of John Launer's Book

How not to be a doctor is a collection of fifty of John Launer’s essays that have been featured in his medical columns.

As it says in his introduction, they set out an argument that being a doctor- a real doctor- should mean being able to draw on every aspect of yourself, your interests and your experiences, however remote these may seem from the medical task of the moment.

They are an excellent read for learners and educators, and I’ve included the book as there are many references to the role of the humanities in medical education.

Both these books reinforce how much we learn from stories.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff often appears on humanities reading lists related to education. It’s not the easiest of books to digest but some of the themes are really interesting and thought-provoking. For example this quote from Chapter Two Spelling Tuesday

sometimes the knowledge of a scholar is a bit hard to understand because it does not seem to match up with our own experience of things. In other words, knowledge and experience do not seem to necessarily be the same language.

I’d recommend the following books to read for personal reflection or to discuss in a small group.

  • Stoner John Williams
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran Azar Nafisi
  • Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
  • Teacher Man Frank McCourt

I’ve used Roger Bloors’ poem In all those years at medical school in my teaching.

It’s published in both these collections of poems (I’m waiting to hear back from him to see if I can reproduce it on this page)

Here is what the author wrote about his poem

“This poem was written as a reflection on the important lessons we learn during a medical career that perhaps change us both personally and professionally but aren’t part of the prescribed formal curriculum of medical schools. It struck me that over a fifty-year period in the medical profession the things that were most prominent and vivid in my memory would not be found in any medical textbook or lecture.”

I love this by Michael Rosen

The Prophet Kahil Gibran (the section on teaching)

With reference to the teacher he writes

If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.



Anatomy lesson of Nicholeas Tulp Rembrant 1632 Image in Public Domain
 (2022, June 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anatomy_Lesson_of_Dr._Nicolaes_Tulp

Tulp was the official City Anatomist. He was permitted to perform one public dissection each year, provided the body was that of an executed criminal. The event was popular with the public and medical students who all had to pay a fee to attend.


The Agnew Clinic. (2022, December 30). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Agnew_Clinic

The realist painter Thomas Eakins was also a medical doctor whose paintings were a valuable contemporary learning resource.

Ways of Seeing John Berger is a thoughtful collection of essays with pictures to help you explore how we learn and interpret the world around us. I’ve just discovered it’s now available free online via this link.

Film and TV Drama

These films have some useful clips to use in discussion and about learning (and teaching)

  • Dead Poets Society
  • The History Boys
  • Educating Rita
  • Full Monty
  • Chicken Run

There have been some really interesting TV series about education including:

  • Waterloo Road
  • Ackley Bridge
  • Derry Girls
  • And of course, anyone over the age of 50 will remember Grange Hill!

A natural next step would be to explore how art can be used in your learning and teaching. (see home page for resources)

Page created January 2023