The Education Consultants – Planning Multiple Educational Approaches or Formats

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities are available in many different formats including large-group learning at conferences or seminars; small-group learning during courses or workshops; skills development during laboratories; distance-education through websites, video or tele-conferencing; reading journals, texts, or electronic publications; watching and listening to DVDs, videos, or on-line presentations; consultation with colleagues and content experts; or independent research of online resources.

Depending on your participants’ specific learning objectives and individual learning styles, a variety of formats for professional development may be useful. For example, when participants are learning about a new therapeutic approach for the first time, scanning the medical literature or attending a keynote address at a large conference may be a good introduction. When participants are developing skills in the practice of the new therapy, small group case-based discussions or skills building workshops may be more effective. When participants are consolidating the new skills into a protocol for their practice setting, discussion with colleagues or independent research on the internet may be necessary.

The following table describes different educational formats which are useful at different stages of learning:

Build Foundational Knowledge Develop Skills Implement in Practice

Congress, Conference, Lecture
Webcasts, On Line Modules
Reading or Scanning Journals
Small group sessions
DVDs and Videos

Case studies
Ask the experts
Role play
Interactive Online

Consult with colleagues
Teaching others

Active learning is the active engagement of the learner in the learning process. This can include engagement with others (participants and teachers), engagement with the materials (i.e. case studies), and professional reflection. Passive attendance at didactic lectures as the sole educational intervention increases awareness, but rarely results in effective professional development applied to practice.

Interaction with colleagues is an essential component of the process whereby participants apply new information and knowledge to practice. Practitioners rarely make any changes in practice without consulting with other professionals or finding confirmation from multiple, authoritative resources. Active discussion with colleagues validates information presented through journals and CPD courses. Talking to colleagues stimulates thinking.

In most cases, professional development is more effective when multiple, complementary, educational formats are planned and sequenced appropriately to explore a new learning objective and develop new skills and expertise in practice. Single, stand-alone educational events may prove to be less relevant to practice.