The pedagogical approach to the OpenMed course

Fink’s (2003)[1] integrated approach to course design is presented here as a means of underpinning the pedagogical approach adopted for the OpenMed Online Course. The integrated approach is based on a taxonomy, which goes beyond rote learning, or straightforward application of skills, towards the development of more creative, engaging and reflective learning experiences as both process and outcome. Fink’s taxonomy builds on that of Bloom (1956), by adding in elements such as the social dimension of learning, attention to human interaction and motivation, in addition to a focus on cognition.

Figure 1: The six categories of Fink’s (2003) integrated approach to learning

The central tenet of the model is that course design needs to incorporate significant learning goals rather than purely content-driven methods, with an emphasis on enhancing individual learners lives, enhancing social interactions with others, and in becoming more informed and thoughtful citizens (Fink, 2003 p.8). With this in mind the OpenMed course aims to:

  • Incorporate basic concepts rather than trying to cover all possible topics
  • Place emphasis on active learning
  • Encourage the application of course content to real-life problems
  • Have facilitators / teachers who care – about the subject of open education
  • Have facilitator / teachers who desire to interact well with learners
  • Have good systems in place for feedback and assessment

Adapted from Fink (2003, pp.32-33)

The six categories of Fink’s integrated approach to learning, captured in Figure 1, are expanded upon below.

  1. Foundation Knowledge. Knowing here refers to the learner’s ability to understand information and ideas about basic content that they need to know by the end of the course. Foundational knowledge provides the basic understanding necessary for other kinds of learning. Assessed on the course for example by multiple choice questions.
  2. Application encompasses learning to apply critical, creative and practical thinking and includes developing certain skills so that other kinds of learning becomes useful. Assessment ideas here include case study work as well as independent research.
  3. Seeing and understanding the connections between ideas and concepts offers learners agency and intellectual understanding, and the ability to assimilate specific and wider ideas from across disciplines and resources. Assessment here will include presentation of scenarios to demonstrate understanding and application of knowledge through use of certain techniques and approaches.
  4. Human Dimension. This aspect stresses the human factor and the significance of learning about the self and others, enabling learners to function and interact more effectively. It also includes considering why people respond and act in the way they do, and how this is shaped socially and culturally. Assessment techniques can include reflective writing, and sharing learner insights with an emphasis on interculturalization.
  5. This aspect is premised on the view that a learning experience changes the degree to which we can care about something. When learners care more, they become more motivated to continue learning. This aspect therefore encompasses caring about others and the subject matter in terms of having the energy and commitment for learning and the interest and associated feelings towards the subject matter. Assessment techniques employed here will likely include the use of Likert scales – to understand how much learners care about the course.
  6. Learning to Learn. During the OpenMed course, we hope learners will gain from the process of learning itself and how to become more self-directed in continuing to learn about open education practices, and with greater effectiveness. The assessment element here will be in the final project work and how this can lead to other project plans

The model in action

Using a dynamic and non-hierarchical structure, Fink’s (2003) model proposes that when learning occurs in any one of the six dimensions, a learner’s ability to improve ensues in every other dimension, illustrating that learning is multidirectional. For example, an increase in caring about the subject matter of applying open licenses to one’s teaching resources will lead to an impetus to learn foundational knowledge about the range of licenses available through Creative Commons.

In promoting an integrated approach to our OpenMed course design, including the importance of aligning the learning outcomes with the teaching and learning activities developed and the techniques used for feedback and assessment, we aim for the OpenMed course to create a significant learning experience for those involved.

In the following pages, we will analyse the expected learning outcomes of the course and provide an overview about the course structure and content.

[1] Fink, L. D. (2003) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.