224821 Are we clear about the role of “competencies” in the design of graduate public health programs?

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 2:44 PM - 2:56 PM

Daniel Swartzman, JD, MPH , School of Public Health, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
Karin Opacich, PhD, MHPE, OTR/L, FAOTA , Office of the Dean, UIC School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
Much effort has been expended by public health practitioners and academicians to develop competency-based curricula. The resultant Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals have played a central role in the planning and design of graduate public health education, but competencies are only one small part of a well considered curriculum planning process. While consideration of standards, benchmarks, or competencies inform curriculum planning, they are not sufficient for rendering sound or innovative curriculum. We report on an informal survey of the use of competencies at various academic public health programs and compare those results with our own experiences and with the literature pertaining to curriculum design. Our conclusion is that public health programs may be relying too heavily on competencies and neglecting other important aspects of the planning and design process. Without broader curricular considerations, public health educators risk crafting curricula that do not fully express the values of their respective programs nor meet the needs of their students. If we further rely on these same competencies to “measure” the success of curricula, we may ultimately be “teaching to the test” thus limiting the capacity of our faculty and students to create new paradigms. More emphasis should be placed on (1) identifying the vision and the values of the educational community involved, (2) understanding the needs of students and their future employers, (3) generating curricula based upon educational wisdom, and (4) creating curricular evaluations that use a variety of measures to assess the quality and success of our programs.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe the aspects of sound curriculum planning. Identify the role that competencies play in curriculum planning. Describe the difficulties with disproportionate reliance upon competencies for determining curriculum design. Describe the benefits of engaging in a more complete curriculum development and design process.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been teaching at a School of Public Health for 32 years, and have been involved in and led many curriculum development projects.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.