Towards a theoretical framework for curriculum development in health professional education
The aim of health professional education is to graduate safe, capable practitioners who are able to meet the healthcare needs of society. In meeting this aim, contemporary health curriculum tends to focus primarily on the articulation of competencies (often expressed as objectives, outcomes or attributes) and learning activities, resources and assessment tasks that are designed to produce these outcomes. This linear approach is typically informed by classical models of curriculum development that rarely recognise the dynamic, multi-dimensional and integrated nature of curriculum. Nor do they make visible the value judgements regarding present and future healthcare needs or workplace practices that actually shape curriculum. This paper describes a conceptual framework for curriculum development in health professional education. Developed in the context of a major national project for the review and renewal of interprofessional education curriculum, the four dimensional framework supports the conceptualisation and design of curriculum for health professions more broadly. It recognises the need to connect health curriculum directly to the larger political, social and economic issues surrounding the profession for which it aims to prepare graduates in addition to acknowledging the cultural and historical forces that often underpin these influences. The proposed framework does not offer a prescriptive set of steps for curriculum developers to follow. Rather, it is intended to assist educators who are developing, reviewing or reshaping health professional courses in the higher education sector so that graduates can receive the most comprehensive preparation for the complexities of the present and future health workplace.