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The Importance of a Nurturing Learning Environment

Lessons Learned from Loggerhead Turtles

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 287

This past summer, in a blog I wrote about the importance of learning and working environments, I mentioned the recommendations from the Macy Foundation’s April conference, “Improving Environments for Learning in the Health Professions.” Amy Barton, a panelist at the Consortium’s own conference in June, was an invited participant at the Macy Foundation event.

I was curious about what struck her the most about the discussions at the Macy Conference.  It was definitely a high-level discussion, she noted, revolving around analyzing commissioned papers about theories of learning and instruction. But what impressed her the most was the persistent focus on the social component of learning—on community—and on the importance of creating environments that are nurturing.

I asked Amy to join me and write a blog about these ideas.  She begins by talking about loggerhead turtles (!); describes the four characteristics of learning environments; relates all that to the Johns Hopkins Civility Project; and wraps it up with a closing quote from the conference.

Program Design, Vacation Planning and Concept Mapping

Visualizing Concepts

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 1003

My family spent months and many cross-country phone calls figuring out our summer vacation in Maine… Lots of discussion about how to spend our time, what we could give up and what we couldn’t give up.  Over the months, we worked out the broad strokes and then the details fell into place.  Just this past weekend we were still tweaking the final plans. 

Today, it occurred to me that next year we should use concept mapping to facilitate the planning process.  Concept mapping is an approach used in education, design, engineering, business development and technical writing to visualize knowledge and concepts.  It is a graphical method for defining components and capturing relationships. Concept mapping is a visual teaching/learning technique where nodes representing information are drawn and then connected. It is a really effective mechanism for planning and problem solving. Read more to see how you could use it in designing or refining your training program.

Accreditation – Billie Beane, the Oakland A's and Crosswalking Curriculum and Evaluation

The importance of integrating curriculum and evaluation

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 3832
This was another one of those challenging blogs for me.  Crosswalking the curriculum and evaluation is an important topic.  It makes sense and seems straight forward.  However, in practice it can quickly become complicated and overwhelmingly detailed.  As I found when trying to write this blog. There were way too many drafts that were too dense, too theoretical, too dry, too long, etc.  And then I remembered the movie Moneyball…   

In order to answer questions about the effectiveness of training – Where is the program working?  Where does it need to be changed? – the curriculum and the evaluation/assessment measures need to be mapped onto each other.  The Oakland A's did it beautifully.  When curriculum and evaluation are integrated, transformation can occur. 

One practical method for integrating curriculum and evaluation is to “crosswalk” between the two – pairing every curriculum component with specific evaluation or assessment measures.  Let's work our way through the process.

Accreditation -- Standard 2 Curriculum -- Learning Objectives

SMART objectives

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 1077

Sometimes real life intersects with educational theory.  That happened when I was baking cookies and thinking about learning objectives.  Learning objectives and recipes serve similar functions -- assuring consistency of outcomes.

The University of Colorado-Denver wrote the following about learning objectives in their faculty resource reference: “The philosopher Seneca once said, ‘If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.’ When you know where you are headed, you can more easily get there. Well-defined and articulated learning objectives are important because they:

  • provide students with a clear purpose to focus their learning efforts
  • direct your choice of instructional activities
  • guide your assessment strategies”

Writing SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound) objectives informs trainees and instructors about what they need to do to be successful. 

Accreditation -- Standard 2 Curriculum cont'd

Curriculum Design -- Design backwards; Deliver forward

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 940

This will wrap up our discussion of the concept of curriculum.  Future blogs will address objectives within the curriculum and how to crosswalk these concepts with the unique identity of your training program. Then we will move on to the subsequent Standards.

Let’s briefly review what we’ve covered so far: 

  • The curriculum is the map or guide for all activities that ‘touch’ the trainee.
  • The curriculum presents the ‘big ideas’ and main concepts to all those involved with delivering the experiential learning to the trainee.
  • The curriculum specifies the domains of learning, the competencies and the objectives.
  • The curriculum includes the how, what, where and when of the training program.
  • The curriculum integrates evaluation and assessment into the delivery of training, and uses the feedback from the formative and summative assessment/evaluation to make adjustments to the program.

Now turning our attention to how to design curricula -- the outcome drives the design. Design backwards; deliver forwards. Creating a compelling learning environment that is anchored in a meaningful curriculum is not easy – but the rewards are well worth the effort.  We are literally creating fertile ground for the growth and development of our next generation of leaders in healthcare.

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