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Building a Curriculum Inventory: Maintaining And Using Your CI From Year To Year

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Internal uses of CI data

Recall the discussion of your school’s motivations and goals for having a CI. Once your CI is established, your school may have a variety of uses for your data which align with the motivations and goals you earlier identified.

Possible uses of data include: 

  • Program evaluation, e.g., evaluate the amount of student time spent in each domain of content, evaluate the overall mix of instructional and assessment methods, identify gaps or unintentional redundancies in the curriculum, evaluate the progression of learning objectives from events, courses, and ultimately to the program objectives, etc.
  • Course evaluation, e.g., evaluate the alignment of course objectives, instructional methods, and assessment methods, evaluate the number, duration and content of teaching events, etc.
  • Accreditation support, e.g., use CI data to populate accreditation forms, identify curriculum weaknesses to address before a site visit, maintain accreditation standards, etc. When medical schools think about accreditation, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for MD schools and the AOA Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) for DO schools are usually the first that come to mind. However, there may be additional accrediting agencies that you may find CI data useful for. For example, the Higher Learning Commission accredits universities in a select number of US states; it may be that your university’s accrediting needs may be supported by your medical school’s CI.
  • Continuous quality improvement, e.g., evaluate progress towards meeting a curricular goal, such as increasing the amount of case-based learning in the curriculum, identify degree of integration of curricular threads throughout multiple courses, etc.
  • Curriculum renewal, e.g., identify areas where new curriculum content can be placed and less relevant curriculum content can be discontinued, etc.
  • Curriculum benchmarking, e.g., compare the percentage of your curriculum’s time spent in lecture to national norms, compare the percentage of your curriculum’s time spent in simulation to national norms, etc.

Outlining how you plan to use your CI data, for a variety of purposes, will help direct which stakeholders in your institution need to utilize CI data, and therefore what kinds of procedures to maintain and update your CI data are needed.

READ MORE ON MAKING THE CASE FOR CURRICULUM DOCUMENTATION

Because curriculum is adapting and changing all the time, having an accurate and complete CI at any given time is a tall (or perhaps impossible) order. Edits to your CI will be needed on a very regular basis. The CI is not an effort where you can “build it and forget it” – it will need attention and resources on an ongoing basis. As your CI matures from one year to the next, so too will the amount of data grow, such that eventually year-to-year comparisons of your curriculum will be possible. The thorough documentation you do now will facilitate analysis of curriculum change over time.

By identifying all the ways in which your school wishes to use CI data, and all the regular reviews and updates which will be needed for your CI data, you can plan the ongoing resources which will be needed to maintain it. Those resources will include curriculum faculty and staff, IT infrastructure and staff, and software licensing (if applicable). 

Task #1

Refer to your CI motivations and goals from Chapter 1 and identify all your school’s uses for CI data. One of these uses is annually sharing CI data with AAMC.

Internal procedures and oversight bodies

While perfection may not be attainable, it is possible to establish internal procedures and processes to maintain your CI. 

The most direct method to ensure that the CI is regularly updated and utilized is to incorporate it into your curriculum procedures and overseeing bodies. For example, consider how and how often the following groups may need to review, update, and utilize data from the CI:

  • Your medical education and/or dean’s office
  • Curriculum leaders and administrative staff
  • Your curriculum oversight bodies, such as a curriculum committee
  • Your course directors and curriculum planners
  • Your teaching faculty

FIND THE OFFICIAL AAMC CI ROLES IN THE CI PORTAL USER GUIDE 

There may also be stakeholders who would benefit from some synthesized CI data reports, but are not responsible for contributing to the CI, such as your students, applicants, or institutional leaders. It is up to you to determine how, or if, you wish stakeholder groups to have knowledge or awareness of portions of your CI. 

Task #2

Identify which stakeholder groups and existing bodies and procedures need access to CI data and/or reports.

You may find from outlining how you wish these groups to use CI data that additional or different oversight bodies or procedures are needed. For example, perhaps your current course evaluation process does not incorporate all the CI data fields you would like to review, so the course evaluation form needs to be edited. Perhaps your curriculum committee’s policies and procedures need to be updated to incorporate CI data into their decision-making processes. Is your curriculum committee’s existing membership, charge, and cadence of meetings sufficient to utilize CI data? There may be some aspects of the CI data that are more efficient to review asynchronously via reports or visualizations, and other aspects of the CI for which a committee meeting or longer retreat would be best.

Task #3

Identify any different or additional oversight bodies or procedures need to be edited to include use of CI data and reports.

Your CI data will be thousands to millions of data points over time, and it may not be efficient or necessary for an overseeing body to review every aspect of your CI. It will, however, be necessary for someone to review and ensure the accuracy of each component of your CI. Once you answer the questions above, you will have a sense of who needs which parts of your CI, and when. Then you can develop your CI maintenance procedures to ensure that your CI data is accessible and up to date for each of your stakeholder needs.

We recommend outlining each piece of CI data, who is responsible for updating it, and how often. It also may be helpful to outline your existing curriculum evaluation documents (e.g., course evaluation forms), procedures (e.g., curriculum committee reviews), and meetings to determine which need to be adjusted to include CI data.

Task #4

Identify a person/role responsible for updating each piece of CI data, and document how often the CI data needs to be updated.

Centralized and decentralized processes 

In a decentralized approach, curriculum data comes from a variety of sources and people. It is a more distributed model. The chief advantage of the decentralized approach is that those with the most knowledge and familiarity with a given aspect of the curriculum have a hand in its documentation. 

The chief disadvantage of the decentralized approach is that there may not be consistency across the curriculum if different authors are providing the data. For example, faculty may write learning objectives with varying degrees of detail. If the curriculum data live in a variety of places, like presentation slides, syllabi, student schedules, and more, which version is the “master” copy? How can you ensure consistency across documents when CI data is changed?

In a centralized approach, the collection (and to some degree, writing) of curriculum data is in the hands of a few individuals, typically staff in the medical education or dean’s office. The chief advantage of the centralized approach is control and consistency. The medical education office can know where the master set of data is, and any changes to the CI are tightly controlled and overseen to ensure quality. 

For example, before a course objective can be changed, someone needs to determine if the previous program objective relationships will still fit, whether the previous event objective relationships will continue to fit, the fit of instructional and assessment methods, and more. The chief disadvantage of the centralized approach is that it does not bring content experts and others who would benefit the CI data into the development and oversight process.

Explore different curricular management approaches via the Building Better Curriculum Webinar series

There is more than one “right” way to oversee your CI data, and there are examples of schools with centralized and decentralized approaches. To some degree, the approach you choose will depend on your school’s organizational structure and staffing model. It may be that a careful mix of both decentralized and centralized approaches to oversee your curriculum data may help promote the advantages of both approaches while mitigating their disadvantages.

Task #5 

Determine what type of oversight model (whether centralized, decentralized, or a hybrid of both) you will employ to maintain your CI data.

Chapter 6 key questions

  1. Recall the list of motivations and goals you identified for your CI in Chapter 1. Identify all your school’s uses for CI data, including the annual upload to the AAMC.
  2. List all your current curriculum oversight bodies including their meeting cadence, and your curriculum governance documents (e.g., course evaluation forms). View example.
  3. Are there any additional curriculum procedures or documents which need to be added or edited to include CI data collection and/or review?
  4. Going back to the list of CI data points your school will collect, which you identified in Chapter 1, ensure that each data point has a point person responsible for maintaining it. View example.
  5. What ongoing resources, including faculty and staff, protected time, IT infrastructure, IT staff, software licensing, and more, are needed to maintain the CI, given how you wish to update the use of the data?
  6. Will you have a centralized, decentralized, or hybrid approach to managing our CI data? Please describe in detail.

Got questions or feedback? Let us know at ci@aamc.org.

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