Blog: Education Philosophy

Education Philosophy

What is intelligence? How do people best learn? How do people process and apply knowledge? Can technology enhance education?

Over the last 20 years in my roles as a physician, educator, researcher and CEO, I have tried to answer these questions and apply innovative techniques and solutions to improve medical education. In the process, I have had the privilege to educate over 400,000 physicians and conduct hundreds of medical education programs. Below, I will describe some of the intelligence and learning theories that have influenced my thinking.

In the beginning of my academic career, I struggled to effectively teach medical students and residents about anatomical structures, diagnostic skills, clinical nuances, and surgical techniques. I decided I needed to acquire greater knowledge about the educational process to become a better teacher.

I started with the intelligence theories of Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist. After decades of research, he demonstrated that there are Multiple Intelligences that include:

  • Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence: ability to use words and language
  • Logical/Mathematical Intelligence : ability to use reason, logic and numbers
  • Visual/Spatial Intelligence: ability to perceive the visual and spatial relationships
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: ability to control body movements and handle objects skillfully
  • Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence: ability to produce and appreciate music
  • Interpersonal Intelligence: ability to communicate with and understand others
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: ability to self-reflect and be aware of one’s inner state of being

These powerful concepts changed the face of K-12 education for the last 30 years. I agreed with Gardner’s belief that everyone possesses their own set of intelligence strengths, so I began to teach the medical community how to maximize their educational experiences utilizing Multiple Intelligences.

Later, I began to explore many learning theories that led me to define learning as processes that lead to lasting improvements in the capacity of cognition, motor and behavioral skills acquisition, and the development of social character. There are many learning theories that address one or more of these processes. I will briefly describe a few that have influenced how I deliver my educational programs:

  • Behaviorism: Focus on external responses elicited by stimuli
  • Cognitivism: Focus on models of memory (Sensory memory, short-term memory, long-term memory)
    • Schema theories: Knowledge is arranged in a hierarchical network of constructs called “schemas” (Richard Anderson in 1977)
    • Subsumption theory: Learning involves linking of new information to relevant points in the learner’s existing cognitive structure (David Ausubel in 1978)
    • Elaboration theory: Instruction should be organized in increasing order of complexity (Charles Reigeluth in 1983)
    • Surgical intuition theory: Experts form a repertoire of “scripts”, or the mental organization of compiled knowledge that is relevant to the situation at hand that allows for the rapid and accurate assessment of the situation and the formulation of an action plan (Hamm and Abernathy in 1995)
  • Constructivism: People learn by constructing their own knowledge on the basis of their experiences. Everyone’s framework of prior knowledge is unique, thus they have their own needs, goals and contexts.
    • Andragogy: Adult learners are self-directed and like to exercise more control, bring experience to learning environment, ready to learn to perform role in society, problem oriented, motivated by internal factors (Malcolm Knowles from 1970 to 1980)
    • Situated learning theory: Focus on social, practice-based approach to learning where learners participate in communities of practitioners and communicate with peers and experts (Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1990)
    • Skills acquisition theory: A learner-centered theory describing a progression of skills acquisition from novice to expert (Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus in 1986)
  • Connectivism: Exploit technology to extend your knowledge beyond your own brain and build a network of knowledge sources which can be accessed as the need arises (George Siemens in 2005)

I have found that the ideal educational method combines all of these learning theories into a comprehensive framework that allows students to:

  • Take responsibility for their own learning
  • Be taught according to their best learning style(s)
  • Be placed in a program commensurate with their learning skill
  • Be able to progress at their own pace
  • Have instruction organized in increasing order of complexity
  • Receive contextual learning (form schema or scripts – mental organization of compiled knowledge that is relevant to the situation)
  • Get immediate feedback with a discussion about measured milestones
  • Build a network of knowledge sources that can be accessed as the need arises
  • Build a network of knowledge sources that can be accessed as the need arises

By coupling this comprehensive learning framework with advanced technologies, I believe we can create a new standard in medical education. In collaboration with top medical educators across the world, I hope that CaseNetwork can play a significant role in advancing the future of medical education. But we can’t do it alone. In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

If you are interested in collaborating with CaseNetwork, please e-mail us at

Here is to a brighter future!

Jeffrey Levy, MD
Founder and CEO, CaseNetwork

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