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Building a Curriculum Inventory: Preface

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What data should I include in my CI upload to the AAMC?

When creating your curriculum inventory, you may wonder how much of your curriculum you should model or to what degree. Some schools may have over 1,000 electives—should those all be in your CI? Some schools may have one student on an MD/PhD track—should that be included in your CI?

For internal purposes, you may want to document every possible path and course all your matriculated students could encounter. 

For AAMC CI purposes, we ask that at a minimum you document your prototypical student and their required curricular experiences to complete your program. You are welcome to also submit special tracks, extracurricular experiences, and special pathways a portion of your students may encounter as well, but your initial CI effort should be focused on the required curricular content for the majority of your students. The more aspects of your curriculum and data you include, the more data the AAMC can share with you in reports. However, the priority is to document the prototypical student’s experience accurately and completely.

How the prototypical student’s experience is constructed may vary depending on your technical platform. It can be constructed using a representative, actual student’s curricular calendar or be built from a hypothetical student’s curricular experiences to best represent your curriculum.

Learning objectives are a rich source of data in reports

Learning objectives in a CI file can be at several levels (e.g., program, course, event). The more specific and descriptive your learning objectives are, the better the reports using your CI data can be. Descriptive, detailed learning objectives are also helpful for your students and faculty. Resources on writing effective learning objectives are available in the virtual Curriculum Community's Resource Library.

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Data quality

As with all aspects of the educational enterprise, the devil is in the details. Please do not share inaccurate CI data with the AAMC.

For example, we have likely all been to a lecture that was disappointing. Perhaps too much content was planned, or the material was not presented in a way that engaged the audience, or the content did not meet the learning objectives. On the other hand, a lecture implemented well can be engaging, timely, relevant, and designed to meet its stated learning objectives. CI is similar in that it can be very useful if the data is accurate, if the reports are well structured and meaningful, and if there are processes in place to use the data to make evidence-based curriculum change decisions.

The MedBiquitous CI and Competency Framework specifications govern the structure and types of data that can be included in your CI. This AAMC CI Technical User Guide explains the AAMC’s application of those specifications from an educator and technical perspective. There may be data that technically meets the standards but, under closer scrutiny, is not accurate or complete. 

In any large-scale data collection effort, some degree of data entry error is expected. After CI data is collected, the AAMC performs a number of data quality checks before preparing a curriculum report. We ask schools to do their best to submit only accurate CI data.

Making the case for curriculum documentation

Curriculum documentation supports accreditation

Having a CI is an accreditation requirement for medical school programs. Curriculum documentation can be referred to as a CI, curriculum map, or curriculum database—the terminology may vary, but the purpose of the accreditation standard is to ensure that schools have a record of their curricula. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) Data Collection Instrument (DCI) refers to this documentation as a curriculum database. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) refers to it as a curriculum map. Reports sourced from your CI data may support other aspects of the accreditation process as well.

Students need curriculum documentation

Even before accrediting bodies were requiring schools to show evidence of their CI, schools were documenting their curricula for several critical reasons.

For students, curriculum documentation helps them to know:

  • Where they are in the curriculum,
  • Where they are going, and
  • Where they have been.

It helps put their learning into context, so they understand the long-term goals (e.g., program expectations and graduation requirements) and how their current learning fits within those goals.

At the same time, the amount of medical and other knowledge for practice deemed necessary for medical students is growing exponentially. Students may not remember every detail of every educational experience they have, and so, a searchable CI is helpful for knowledge retention, building a study plan, and preparing for comprehensive assessments.

Faculty need curriculum documentation

Faculty responsible for a given content area or discipline need a searchable CI to understand:

  • Where all the “touches” on a given topic exist,
  • What other topics are next to this content area,
  • What gaps or unintentional duplications may exist, and
  • How the learning objectives for a content area relate to each other and to the program expectations.

Teaching faculty who may be coming into the curriculum to teach a session or two need to understand what information students already have on a given topic and what they need to be prepared for in the future.

The school needs curriculum documentation

For the school, beyond meeting accreditation requirements, having a searchable CI is helpful for responding to stakeholder inquiries. Students, applicants, senior leaders in the organization, members of the public, or others may need an answer to the questions “How much X does our medical school teach, how do we teach and assess it, and where is it within our curriculum?”

Schools can:

  • Clearly outline their expectations for students;
  • Ensure content has a logical sequence and degree of difficulty;
  • Align learning objectives, instructional approaches, and assessment methods; and
  • Identify gaps and unintentional redundancies.

Reports that a CI produces are useful for supporting:

  • Vertical and horizontal integration, where connections are made between topics and across time;
  • Program, course, and content area evaluation;
  • Continuous quality improvement; and
  • Evidence-based curriculum change.

A robust CI can serve as a curriculum’s telemetry, giving users an at-a-glance high-level view of the fulfillment of the program’s educational program objectives, as well as when and how they are achieving these benchmarks, and identifying areas where work needs to be focused.

This past Building Better Curriculum webinar from Texas A&M, Program Evaluation and the Integration of Curriculum Information, is a sample of how to incorporate curriculum documentation within the program evaluation process.

The AAMC uses CI data for its mission

The AAMC annually collects this data to provide a service to schools, but also because the data is used to fulfill a component of the AAMC’s mission—to be an advocate for medical education programs. The AAMC relies on data to form its responses when communicating with government and media outlets, to inform medical education research in studying practices and trends, to advance medical education research, and to guide its own initiatives.

Participating schools contribute to and receive access to reports

There are 50+ aggregate national curriculum reports available on the AAMC website, from both the AAMC CI and the LCME Medical School Questionnaire Part II. The CI Portal, the site where schools annually share their CI data, contains school-specific and national reports that participating schools can access.

These reports are helpful in supporting school and faculty efforts, as described above, to manage and improve curricula. For an example of using national aggregate curriculum reports within the curriculum benchmarking process, check out this article from the Curriculum in Context publication, Incorporating Curriculum Inventory Data Into the Program Evaluation Process.

Explore the Building a Curriculum Inventory Guidebook

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