Educational Design: Part 1

One of the most frequent consults I receive is to advise on the design of a curriculum.  Too frequently, the request for help comes mid-design, when a problem is encountered and many resources have been exhausted 🙁  This phenomenon is also a common experience among a number of CE colleagues.  To address this need, Jason Frank (@drjfrank) and I edited a guide on designing education (with a number of authors, including Eric Holmboe (@boedudleyand Yvonne Steinert.

Good educational design is systematic.  Opportunistic and organic approaches certainly have a place, but they have the potential to result in an experienced curriculum (what is learned by the students) that is not intended from the planned curriculum. Derived from the Latin for track or race course, “curriculum represents the expression of educational ideas in practice.1 p.268  So, without a systematic educational plan, the expression and representation of the core educational ideas that inform a curriculum can be altered in unintended ways.  (Side note, I’m referring to the operational influences <e.g. choice of instructional methods, influence of assessment instruments etc.> that impact a non-systematic educational design.  Of course, a hidden curriculum <i.e. the non-overt reinforcement or endorsement of social norms> exists in every education program regardless of the plan.)

I view educational design like this.

Fri post_Systematic Educational Design

Both learners and the teaching environment influence and interact with elements of a systematic design.  After all, the raison d’etre for a curriculum is the learner.

This framework works for me.  In fact, I use variations of this framework in working through the questions in other consults I receive that are not directly related to curriculum design. (For example, the principles work equally well for diagnosing a learner in difficulty and designing a remediation program.)

What framework for systematic educational design do you use?


1. Prideaux D. ABC of learning and teaching in medicine: Curriculum design. BMJ. 2003;326:268-270.

Image courtesy of Educational Design: a CanMEDS guide for the health professions.