The problem with outcomes-based curricula in medical education: insights from educational theory

Med Educ. 2004 Jun;38(6):593-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2004.01793.x.


Background: Educators across the world are charged with the responsibility of producing core learning outcomes for medical curricula. However, much educational theory exists which deliberates the value of learning outcomes in education.

Aims: This paper aims to discuss the problems surrounding outcomes-based curricula in medical education, using insights from educational theory.

Discussion: The paper begins with a discussion of the traditions, values and ideologies of medical curricula. It continues by analysing the issue of control within the curriculum and argues that curriculum designers and teachers control product-orientated curricula, leading to student disempowerment. The paper debates outcomes-based curricula from an ideological perspective and argues that learning outcomes cannot specify exactly what is to be achieved as a result of learning.

Conclusions: The paper argues that medical schools should adopt a model for co-operative control of the curriculum, thus empowering learners. The paper also suggests that medical educators should determine the value of precise learning outcomes before blindly adopting an outcomes-based model.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards
  • Faculty / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Licensure / standards
  • Models, Educational
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Students, Medical / psychology