Designing Courses for Health Professionals Handbook

Designing Courses for Health Professionals

Train the Trainers Program
Medical Education and Inter-regional Harmonization
Nuclear Accident Preparedness

Boston University
Center for Educational Development in Health

Hannelore Vanderschmidt, Ph.D
Ascher J. Segall, MD, Dr.PH
Thomas Frostman, MPH

67 Bay State Road
Boston, MA, 02215
(617) 353-4528

May 1997



Part I


1. Defining Competency Based Goals
2. Developing Learning Objectives
3. Linking Evaluation with Objectives
4. Using Evaluation to Design Instructional Activities
5. Planning Sessions

Part II


6. Methods for Job Analysis and Verification
7. Evaluation Methods
8. Teaching Methods



This book presents an approach or technique for use in developing courses, curricula, and training programs. The approach is called competency based curriculum development (CBCD). Mastery teaching, task oriented training and training by objectives are other terms frequently used to describe competency based curriculum development.

CBCD is different from the way courses and training programs are often developed. A common approach in developing education and training programs is to collect existing material and to assemble what appears most useful and interesting. CBCD starts from another point of view, with a series of questions:

1. What tasks will your students be expected to perform after completing their training?
2. What do they need to learn in order to perform these tasks?
3. How will you know how well students are learning?
4. How can you most effectively facilitate student learning?.

The answers to these questions form the basis for a series of steps which can produce training programs which will give reasonable assurance that trainees are able to perform on the job what they learn in the classroom. CBCD programs focus on the questions listed above. As a result, they are usually shorter and simpler than courses produced by other methods and provide greater assurance that trainees are more effective on the job than they would be had they been trained by other methods.

The book can be used in a variety of ways:

1. A group of curriculum developers designing the same or different courses or an individual working alone can use the book.
2. The methods presented here are appropriate for developing training courses of a few days’ duration to long term programs.
3. The primary focus of this book is directed at the health professions and the training of primary and public health workers. The basic approach is relevant to any curriculum or course development problem. Training of emergency medical personnel falls into this category.

The Center for Educational Development in Health at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, has been developing and testing this approach for more than 20 years in the United States and abroad. This Handbook is the product of a research and development project supported by the Development Support Bureau (DSB) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). During the early phase of this study, CEDH produced a more scholarly approach entitled, Systematic Course Design for the Health Fields. (New York. John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1975).


This handbook presents a method, technique or way of developing training or educational courses. It does not dictate to the course developer the subject matter of a course; but it presents a step-by-step method for developing courses.

The method follows the steps noted in Figure 1, page 3.

If this handbook is to be used in a group setting, a class of 10 to 20 course developers could be enrolled in a workshop of 12 to 15 days’ duration.

Developing courses following this approach does not require any special resources save pencil and paper, access to workers working in the areas in which courses are being developed, and resource materials in appropriate subject matter areas.

The handbook is organized into two parts:

Part I

Part I consists of Chapters I through V, which present a step-by-step process on how to develop courses. Part I includes an example of a course on Nuclear Preparedness for Emergency Medical Personnel, developed following the handbook process.

Part II

Part II is a methods section. Discussed are methods to use in completing some of the steps in Part I.

Figure 1:
Competency Based Curriculum Development



1. Define the Instructional Situation ®
2. Write and Verify the Job Description


Chapter I


Setting Competency Based Goals



3. Describe the Desired Student Performance;


4. Define Skills & Knowledge Needed for Performance



Chapter II


Developing Learning Objectives



5. Identify Evaluation Options;
Develop a Course Evaluation Plan ®


Chapter III


Linking Evaluation with Objectives



6. Identify Instructional Options;

Specify Instructional Activities ®

Consistent with the Evaluation


Chapter IV


Using Evaluation to Design
Instructional Activities

7. Develop a Course Syllabus ®


Chapter V


Planning Sessions

Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine