The trifecta of effective MedEd curriculum management

Curriculum mapping is only one piece of the curriculum management pie. Managing the entire curriculum effectively requires collaboration and data sharing between a large number of administrative staff across several departments. 

Most undergraduate medical education (UGME) schools are no strangers to curriculum mapping — we talk to schools every day that have a plan for curriculum mapping in place. 

Curriculum management is more than simply mapping content delivery

Curriculum mapping is the process by which schools plan all of the moving parts of their programs. This includes where, when, and how competencies, objectives, content areas, curriculum themes, and other key areas of focus are taught and assessed

To do it well, connecting the curriculum map to the actual content delivery process and assessments is essential. Then, to help drive genuine continuous quality improvement (CQI), the next step requires incorporating assessments into curriculum revisions. 

Trifecta of curriculum management

It sounds simple, but for a lot of UGME schools, it is anything but. 

Challenges with continuous curriculum management

Most schools maintain standardized lists in systems for mapping curriculum, examination questions, and evaluations/assessments. The administrators creating these lists often fall under separate offices and roles depending on the system being used (e.g., OSCEs, exams, assessments, EPAs, evaluations, etc.).

The system administrator for each system fields requests from multiple stakeholders to add new items to the list or create ad hoc lists. When it comes time to report on data, the school is left with a data pile that doesn’t easily show where, how, and ultimately what the outcomes were. 

This data chaos creates data quality, aggregation, and monitoring issues when reporting on individual or cohort performance. The curriculum office reports on the data they are tracking through learner feedback, examination performance (exam tags), assessment outcomes, and mappings. The assessment office and student affairs report on learner/cohort performance based on assessments of learners, competency outcomes, and EPAs.  

Potential fallout from disparate curriculum data sources

Content alignment between these sources gets scattered over time, causing schools to lose out on key insights due to their inability to easily report on data. This in turn can hamper the effectiveness of their CQI review. 

A study from the University of Central Florida noted that, “drawing intentional connections between program assessment, which primarily focuses on student learning outcomes, and institutional strategic planning, can be challenging for faculty.”

Any number of problems may befall institutions that don’t connect their mapping and revision strategies, such as:

  • gaps and redundancies in their curriculum
  • lack of oversight into learner performance on competencies, content areas, and other key areas
  • ineffective CQI initiatives that require data mining 
  • ineffective curriculum review 
  • missed opportunities for early intervention 

“Intentionally connecting program assessment that primarily focuses on student learning outcomes, and institutional goals, is mutually beneficial.”

Linking Program Assessment to Institutional Goals
Liz Grauerholz,  Patrice Lancey, Kristen Schellhase & Cory Watkins, University of Central Florida

The organizational trifecta 

To understand where items need to be adjusted in the curriculum, MedEd institutions need to be able to easily cross-reference these items. When performance outcomes are weighted against content delivery, institutions are able to clearly understand where the gaps, redundancies, areas of strength, and weaknesses appear. This powers the clarity needed to make curriculum revisions and improvements. 

When all stakeholders are accessing and updating the same datasets, MedEd institutions can enable an organizational trifecta for their curriculum management process: 

  1. Connecting the curriculum map to content delivery assessments
  2. Connecting the map directly to the revision process
  3. Leveraging the map and process integrations to enable true CQI

To achieve this level of efficiency and collaboration truly depends on your MedEd institution breaking down the barriers and opening up the communication and curriculum revision processes between departments. An effective process needs central oversight for data clarity and standards and an openness to share and update the curriculum and assessment data across departments. 

Connecting mapping with content delivery assessment and curriculum revision will create the trifecta that schools need to achieve CQI and improve learner outcomes. 

Best practices for curriculum management 

Making your data shareable, accurate, and available to key stakeholders is much easier when you follow this set of best practices: 

  • Ensure that one staff member or committee is responsible for approving and maintaining standardized lists across all curriculum, evaluation, and assessment systems used within your school
  • Create tagging, linking policies, and use cases
  • Enforce a school-wide data dictionary and standardized lists database
  • Ensure all systems are updated when a change to a standardized list is made
  • Monitor industry trends to ensure that items required for accreditation and contribution on a national level are being monitored
  • Standardize key vocabulary lists (e.g., school competency framework, EPA frameworks, assessment methods, instructional methods, resources, keywords, USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 framework, curriculum themes/threads)
  • Connect the standardized lists to curriculum delivery and assessment frameworks in the following key areas:
    • Curriculum map and learning objectives
    • Assessment of learner
      • EPA frameworks and competency frameworks
        • Delivery of outcomes to learners: Consider slicing lists to monitor performance from different views such as learner self evaluations, peer assessments, and faculty assessments.
      • Grades 
      • Professionalism forms
      • Examination/quiz/OSCE rubrics
    • Program evaluation
      • Ensure that core competencies and other key items such as curriculum themes are being evaluated by students throughout your curriculum
  • Embed the map directly to your curriculum revision process
    • Set up a competency committee to identify irregularities via curriculum gaps and redundancies and performance outcomes. Identify areas where curriculum adjustments and/or reform is required. 
  • Iterate. Leverage your data to enact changes to your curriculum. Apply mapping lists to all areas where these are taught and monitored.

Download the curriculum management best practices checklist.

Curriculum mapping tools that connect the trifecta

Even when multiple departments and stakeholders are involved in the mapping process, the convenience of access to all of the data in a single platform reduces friction, enables continuous improvement, and prevents blind spots in a school’s curriculum management process. 

Our curriculum mapping tool allows schools to gather their curriculum map for reporting gaps or redundancies. Our software suite, including Acuity Analytics, allows schools to monitor the progression of these standardized items over time. Our data warehouse and dashboard reporting product combine data from multiple systems to provide a clear picture of individual and cohort performance to drive CQI. 

Want to learn more about how Acuity’s suite of curriculum management tools can help your school drive CQI? Book a demo and we will show you.