Applying Millers Pyramid of Competence Assessment to an Online Health Informatics Curriculum

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Brief Abstract

An online Master’s in Health Informatics program applied Millers Pyramid of Competence to analyze assignments, assessments and learning outcomes.  Faculty defined competencies and mapped courses to these competencies.  Goals were to focus the curriculum beyond being knowledge-based, to include skills and professional attitudes that employers are seeking. 

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Dr. Miriam Isola is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her background includes over thirty years of experience in healthcare information technology, operations, and education. In addition to teaching at UIC, she advises health systems, hospitals, academic medical centers, and accountable care organizations as they work to improve quality, population health outcomes and reduce costs. Former roles span both acute and ambulatory care settings as a health center administrator, quality improvement epidemiologist, director of research and analytics, and information technology leader. Dr. Isola's areas of interest involve : 1. Academic development of pedagogy for online teaching, curriculum and program development in health informatics and evaluation of student learning outcomes. 2. How healthcare organizations develop analytic capabilities and use analytics for strategic decision-making: Developing capabilities in population health management and applying analytics to quality improvement initiatives; defining framework and measurement strategies for improving patient engagement; and organizational change management for implementation and adoption of HIT and data analytics for healthcare transformation.

Extended Abstract

In this session, participants will learn how one program innovated to transform a curriculum to meet the ongoing need for relevancy in the dynamic field of health informatics (HI).  The challenges included meeting new accreditation requirements for the curriculum to become competency-driven; defining competencies for the UIC program, professional development education for faculty to learn about competency-driven approaches and move to a new paradigm of student-centered active learning. 

University of Illinois at Chicago was the first accredited program in health informatics in 2010.  Over the years the program grew into one of the largest in the US, now graduating more than 150 students with the MSHI per year.  Since 2010, the HI field has matured and emerged as a dynamic new area within healthcare that plays a central role in connecting providers, patients and technology used in healthcare.  Beyond meeting accreditation requirements, transforming to a competency-driven curriculum provided an opportunity to improve quality and innovate to approaches that ensure that the program remains relevant considering the rapid advancement of the field. 

The Millers Pyramid of competence assessment provides a framework that has been used to assess clinical competence in medical education and can assist clinical teachers in matching learning outcomes with expectations of what the learner should be able to do at any level of the pyramid.  The Millers framework was adapted and used to assess the current HI curriculum for gaps in meeting the competencies.

The UIC faculty defined competencies for 10 knowledge domains that aligned with the curricular identity of the UIC program.  Workshops focused on defining the competencies, assessing the current curriculum for gaps in meeting the competencies, designing “scaffolded” assignments within and across courses to meet the competencies and assessments to measure the learning outcomes.  When assignments from multiple courses combined to meet the competency (“at the time of graduation the graduate student will demonstrate . . . ”), faculty collaborated and negotiated to redesign assignments that would scaffold and build towards meeting the competency. 

This presentation will benefit all audience levels and be of particular interest to educators who are moving from traditional pedagogy to innovative, active learning approaches in the online environment.  Slides will be used during the presentation and will be submitted to the conference proceedings to be available to all attendees.  The Miller framework used to define competency will be shared and can be adapted for use by other types of programs.  A timeline of events and project milestones, examples of tools developed for faculty workshops and methods for analyzing curriculum data will be shared.