Content Design: An Overview

Teacher- vs. Learner-Centered Instruction

Learning is a funny thing. the old story about the boy teaching his dog to talk is instructive in relating how teaching and learning can frequently be quite separate:

Susie on the first day back at school: "What did you do this summer Johnny"

Johnny: "I taught my dog to talk"

Susie: "Wow, really? I can't wait to hear him talk"

Johnny: "Oh I taught him alright, but I didn't say he learned anything."

...the moral of the story being that when instruction isn't focused on the learners, their extant knowledge, preconceptions, suppositions, and capabilities, it can range from ineffective to aimless and will miss the mark with some portion of your intended audience.

"How can we avoid this travesty of perpetuating ignorance" I hear you think as you sit riveted in your seat (Yes, I heard you thinking). Well, a lot of smart people continue to work on that to figure it out; but some of their work has at least provided avenues that are worthy of exploration, even in the world of CME where we appear to assiduously adhere to environmental responsibility by recycling presentations year-on-year.

A couple of fine places to start would be with shifting some responsibility for learning to the learner, focus on assessment practices and diversity of evaluations of the learning experience, explicit consideration of the questions presented previously  in the needs assessment section, and adherence to some of these distinctions:

Concept Instructor-centered Learner-centered
Teaching Goals Cover what the instructor believes the participant should know about the topic Participants learn:
How the condition might affect them
How to integrate treatment options and lifestyle changes into their habits and routines
How to change critical habits and routines
A realistic view of outcomes
Organization and delivery of the content instructor-delivered in consultation plus written materials for support Cohesive program with systematically created opportunities to synthesize information, practice change, and develop improved health behaviors

Content Structure instructor covers topics participants master learning objectives
How participants learn



Independent learning, often from information search, family, friends and community

participants construct knowledge by integrating new learning into what they already know

Learning is viewed as a planned cognitive and social act, with participant engaged with a structured (learning) community

Instructional approach Based on information delivery Based on engagement of participant

Content Delivery instructor-delivered in consultation plus written materials for support Active learning
Collaborative/community-based learning
Cooperative learning
Online, asynchronous, self-directed learning
Problem-based learning
Self-assessment opportunities for formative and reflective purposes
Learning Outcome Behavior change indicates a mastery of learning objectives Behavior change indicates a mastery of learning objectives
Instructor role Sage on the stage Coach within the learning environment
Effective Communication of treatment path Present information well and those who can will learn Engage participants in the learning process
Help all participants set learning goals and master learning objectives
Use feedback to improve communications

Adapted from Allen, Mary J. (2004). Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education. Bolton: Anker Publishing Company.

Of course, this is complicated by the fact that attendance at CME activities is not always motivated entirely by a desire to learn, a fundamental issue that must be tackled regardless of the approach we take to design, delivery, or assessment. But it does seem intuitive that generating discussion and sparking questions would go some way toward  shifting that needle also.