Criterion-referenced training in microbiology : Sepulveda V.A. Medical Center, California

The purpose of this study is to present the following: 1. A methodology for teaching a specialized discipline in the life sciences. 2. An evaluation of that method’s acceptability in light of current literature in the field. 3. An analysis of this instructional technique’s efficacy as an instructional tool in that specialized discipline. The method presented is one which emphasizes a structured curriculum within the framework of an individualized style of instruction. Such a method is referred to as criterion-referenced training. It is developed as an innovative blending of educational principles and an accountability-oriented system known as PPBS (Planning, Programming and Budgeting System). Criterion-referenced training embraces a sequence of instructional events which includes:1. Analysis of instructional needs. 2. Establishment of instructional goals. 3. Specification of instruction objectives. 4. Verbal Description of the training budget. 5. Justification of the training budget. 6. Implementation of the training program. 7. Evaluation of the training program. An in-depth review of current literature supportive of criterion-referenced training precedes an analysis of the program’s success as a reliable, reproducible training tool. Evaluation of the training method was accomplished by analysis of cognitive and affective data collected from students over a three year period. Statistical analysis was not performed due to the very low sample size of this medical technology school (8-10 students per year). Instead, observations were made regarding the program’s success based on student practical and written exam scores (cognitive data) as well as student perceptions of selected training conditions (affective data). When student scores were evaluated over a three year time frame, criterion-referenced training was found to be consistent and reliable, with average scoring differential from year to year of 3.9%. The effect of different instructors using the same criterion-referenced training methodologies was found to be greater than that of time. Yet, both factors, time and instructors, were found to have minimal effect on the reliability and reproduceability of the method. Student perception of the criterion-referenced training methodologies was obtained through the use several surveys. The students expressed a desire for more relevancy in the training as found in criterion-referenced training. They preferred a setting where Piaget’s concrete and formal thinkers could co-exist, a setting where individual instruction is emphasized and creativity is encouraged. Based on student scores and perceptions, the usefulness of criterion-referenced training in a variety of settings is discussed.

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