One of the most unique aspects of the STEPS program blueprint is that it introduces a groundbreaking approach to education, characterized by a student-centric, flexible (micro-learning), and work-based experiential learning and assessment model. The STEPS program will be supported by a blend of two contemporary pedagogies rooted in the infusion approach and competency-based education.
With two educational theories at its core, the STEPS program blueprint will be purposefully designed to be effective and fitting with both internal and external contexts, as well as evolving job markets. Thus, it will enhance the likelihood of achieving educational objectives and contributing to the ongoing advancement of effective teaching and learning practices, and most importantly preparing workers ready to contribute to new and exciting jobs.
The STEPS program is proposed to shift from traditional instruction to competency-based learning (CBE), emphasizing skill demonstration over time-based metrics. CBE ensures that students achieve predefined competencies before entering the workforce.7 Within the STEPS program, CBE will enable personalized learning paths aligned with varying expertise levels. CBE's emphasis on real-world application enhances immediate employability and on-the-job productivity, underscoring its relevance in the dynamic healthcare industry.
The STEPS program will also adopt the infusion approach, prioritizing a student-centered, cohesive, and interconnected learning experience. This approach seamlessly integrates specific concepts, skills, or themes across various already existing courses and activities, emphasizing incorporation into new educational structures. Working synergistically with CBE, the infusion approach will provide a flexible, learner-centric model. Students will be able to progress at their own pace, focusing on competency mastery. The integration minimizes the need for new courses, streamlining education and reducing operational costs, demonstrating the effectiveness of the infusion approach in enhancing program development.
Competencies are typically assessed through a combination of formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments, occurring throughout the learning process, provide ongoing feedback and guide instruction. Summative assessments, evaluating overall competency, may include tests or larger projects. The STEPS program blueprint will employ authentic workplace-based assessments. Entrustable Professional Activities can serve as a form of such summative assessments. These tasks or activities, expected to be performed independently by students once competencies are acquired, can serve as authentic assessments in an educational setting. By incorporating EPAs, simulation preceptors can assess not only the acquisition of competencies but also the ability to apply them in practical situations, providing a comprehensive measure of a student's capabilities.
A unique aspect of this program is that it will be designed through a rigorous, scholarly design process with continuous input from stakeholders and end users. An iterative design method process will be employed, with a unique focus on pre-implementation considerations. As a first-of-its-kind program, with only 14 similar programs offered globally, all of which are at graduate or professional development level targeting practicing healthcare professionals, the development process emphasizes the importance of a scholarly approach. Specifically, the STEPS program blueprint will be developed based on a hybrid methodological framework combining the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Design-Based Research (DBR) frameworks. This dual framework synergizes rigorous scientific methodology with iterative, user-focused design. In this context, the MRC framework provides a structured approach for developing evidence-based interventions, ensuring clinical relevance and effectiveness. Simultaneously, DBR facilitates ongoing refinement through iterative cycles, involving stakeholders to enhance user experience, program adaptability, and implementation-focused exploration of fit.
Ontario Tech University’s five key priorities are used as a guide to enhance future implementation. By purposefully aligning the STEPS program with three of these priorities:
we not only enhance the alignment but also position Ontario Tech as a global leader in healthcare simulation and academic programming.
To ensure relevance and alignment with the broader context, as well as the growing and continuously changing needs of the healthcare simulation industry, the STEPS program blueprint will be co-developed with support from existing as well as new local, national, and international partnerships.
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