Scholarly Evaluation of Curricula and Educational Programs: Using a Systematic Approach to Produce Publishable Scholarship

Acad Pediatr. 2020 Jul 9;S1876-2859(20)30425-3. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2020.07.005. Online ahead of print.


The goal of designing innovative curricula and programs in medical education is to create interventions that will change the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviors of learners in order to prepare them to contribute to the health of patients and communities they serve. Systematic evaluation allows curriculum/program developers to optimize their curriculum/program and ensure that the goals of the curriculum/program are met. While curriculum/program evaluation is distinct from educational research, when approached in a rigorous manner, curriculum/program evaluation can be published as educational scholarship. The goal of our paper is to equip readers with tools to apply a scholarly approach to curriculum/program evaluation to produce findings that will advance the field. We start by defining curricula, educational programs, learner assessment, and evaluation. We then briefly describe examples of best practice models for curriculum/program development that incorporate the critical step of planning for evaluation. Building on published work, we distinguish the use of best practice models and conceptual frameworks to inform curriculum/program development and evaluation. More specifically, we outline steps to plan an evaluation that demonstrates WHAT was effective, describes HOW the curriculum/program contributed to the outcomes achieved, and points to WHY the curriculum/program led to the outcomes observed. We conclude with key considerations for publishing findings of an evaluation, including what to include in each section of a manuscript.

Keywords: curriculum; education; evaluation studies as topic; medical; program evaluation.

Publication types

  • Review