African Journal of Health Professions Education

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The Human Rights Key: An innovative tool for teaching health and human rights in the health sciences

VA Mitchell


Background. In response to the need for health and human rights education in undergraduate medical curricula, the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, has included  human rights learning in its reformed programme. Drawing on experiences in several curricular initiatives within the Faculty and beyond, I introduce the Human Rights Key as a new heuristic learning tool.
Objective. To share a teaching innovation in an area of need in medical education.
Method. The Key scaffolds and facilitates students’ learning through a sequential process of guided self-reflection with probing questions. It illuminates the inter-relationship of key human rights concepts, enabling students to create and make connections between human rights principles, legal mechanisms, their own personal realities and their developing clinical practice.
Discussion. Feedback reflects the effectiveness of the Human Rights Key in supporting transformative learning, suggesting that the Key will remain prominent in students’ memory. Online publication of the Key as an open educational resource (OER), with extensions to specific themes, has increased its impact and  demonstrated the generalisability of the tool.
Conclusion. I propose the Human Rights Key as a useful visual communication tool to guide students in connecting their classroom learning with the reality of local, regional and international health and human rights issues. As an OER with a Creative Commons licence, the Key is available online for both educators and students to use as a resource with downloadable components.

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