Promoting Complex Learning through Relevant Learning Experiences for the Health Sciences

Promoting Complex Learning through Relevant Learning Experiences for the Health Sciences

Jill E. Stefaniak (Old Dominion University, USA) and Barbara L. Joyce (Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8571-0.ch007
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Abstract

Educators in the health professions are faced with the daunting task of teaching highly complex skill acquisition and application, often without a framework to guide the development of instruction. Different learning outcomes warrant different learning strategies. Instructional sequencing is dependent upon the various learning outcomes that are intended for a particular course or instructional unit. Complex learning integrates a learner's knowledge, skills, and attitudes, new skill sets and the transference of learning in an applied environment. This chapter discusses the way complex learning can be incorporated within a health education framework that integrates the foundations of basic science, communication skills, and physical exam/procedural skills in a hands-on, learner-centered environment, providing alignment with performance assessment and expected outcomes.
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Background

Educators in the health professions are faced with the daunting task of teaching highly complex skill acquisition and application, often without a framework to guide the development of instruction. An adapted version of the 4C-ID instructional design model to help educators in the health professions design effective instruction along with some key tips to design complex learning activities is presented in this chapter (vanMerriënboer & Kirschner, 2013). This instructional design model has been used in the preclinical years to design an instructional module on vaccines, as well as in the postgraduate medical training years to design simulation activities.

Complex learning has been defined as the integration of multiple skill sets that are required for competent clinical performance (vanMerriënboer & Kirschner, 2013). In training healthcare providers, it is not enough to train isolated simple skills (i.e. how to give an injection). Healthcare education focuses on training all of the constituent skills that go into this final task (knowledge of anatomy, psychomotor skill, knowledge of when to give the injection, knowledge of the drug being given, etc.). Teaching highly complex skills requires medical educators to design and sequence instructional strategies so students are able to build a strong knowledge set or mental model. To put it another way, student learning outcomes (complex knowledge, skill, or attitude) are dependent on the teaching strategies and sequencing of increasing complex information.

There are three premises that educators must consider when designing instruction:

  • There are different types of learning outcomes (Bloom, 1956),

  • Each type of learning outcomes calls for a different teaching strategy,

  • Teaching strategies should encourage learners to engage in active learning of information (Richey, Klein, & Tracey, 2011, p. 105).

It is important to remember the decisions instructors make pertaining to the sequencing of instruction are critical to the success of the learner mastering the material. The sequencing of learning tasks is in the backbone of every instructional program. The 4C/ID Model consists of the following four components:

  • 1.

    Learning tasks;

  • 2.

    Supportive tasks;

  • 3.

    Procedural information; and

  • 4.

    Part-task practice (van Merriënboer, Clark & de Croock, 2002).

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