When Australian GPs hear this term they think about the dreaded Learning Plan that has been compulsory in GP training for decades despite a remarkable lack of evidence. However, it does sound like a sensible idea that ought to work and we see some remarkably self-directed registrars with very organised learning plans.
However, this post is about the components of one of the educational roles which ought to be in the skillset of the average educator / trainer / supervisor. We don’t just “teach”, we plan and organise learning – and hopefully facilitate and enhance it.
This means that when we have the task of teaching registrars about a particular topic – say, at a workshop or in a practice teaching session – we don’t stop at preparing and delivering a talk. As stated before, education (and learning) is not about throwing information at someone and hoping some of it sticks. It’s not just about content. So what else should we be planning, organising, anticipating and generally being pro-active about? Here are some educational questions to ask yourself.
What is the most appropriate way to address this topic? Is it content dense or does it require practice of skills? Could it be more effective to organise registrars to do some pre-reading of content and then to apply this knowledge in problem solving cases during the session (known as flipped classroom)? Does the subject really need small group discussion rather than large group presentation?
Part of planning can include some micro managing such as engineering small groups (same levels together or experienced with less experienced) or being aware of different ways of arranging the room (chairs and tables, breakout rooms) for maximum educational effect. Is there anyone in the organising and planning group who are able to pay attention to these issues? It may make the difference between an effective session and one that is ho hum.
When you decide to run a session in a particular way it is reasonable to want to know if it actually worked or if it could have been done better. This is what evaluation is about and it is important at a program level and at the level of the individual educational activity. There are of course many levels at which you can try to evaluate. Many education providers routinely measure learner feedback on either their ratings of the presenter or their impression of whether learning objectives were achieved (or at least addressed). A learning objective is generally more ambitious than something that can be measured by the end of a workshop. In Kirkpatrick’s Hierarchy measuring satisfaction is the lowest level and measuring the ultimate effect on society’s health would be at the apex of the triangle. It is rare to non-existent for this to occur in education. However, it is not out of reach to be able to measure knowledge or performance (in the workplace). You might administer a knowledge test soon after the session or some months down the track. It’s nice to have a control group – or even comparison with another cohort. It’s difficult but possible to perhaps get assessments of aspects of practice performance. Of course all these attempts are limited by numbers and various confounding factors.
It is often more meaningful and useful to use more than one method and to not just limit yourself to an online survey with a Likert scale. Qualitative feedback can inform future planning (what was missed, what can be done better) and focus groups can produce useful perspectives. It is important that the questions asked are also those that matter to the educators on the ground.
Another form of evaluation occurs when educators get together to discuss how it all went and what can be done better next time. This implies that there is not just one isolated educator in the room for the session. At the minimum they all have access to the written feedback in a timely fashion. It can be a learning process for educators as well. This completes the planning circle and the pooling of educational knowledge and expertise enhances the educational planning process for the next iteration. This is how we get quality improvement and head toward our goal of excellence in education and training. It also makes the educator role much more fulfilling.