Archive for Ask the Expert

Is there a difference between learning outcomes and learning objectives?

The simple answer is yes there is a difference.  However, it is not a surprise that you may be confused because in many instances the terms are used interchangeably implying they are the same.

Learning outcomes – are broad statements of what is to be achieved and assessed at the end of a session or course.  They are learner-centred and as such are intuitive and user friendly and reflect the integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Learning objectives – are detailed and include in-depth information of each topic or element that one intends to cover in a session or course.  They are teacher-centred and focus on instructional intent, making them aspirational in nature.

For further information refer to the following article:

Harden RM. Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: Is there a difference? Medical Teacher. 2002; 24(2):151-155.


Are you aware of any evidence on the efficacy of ‘real time’ telehealth for student clinical supervision?

There is a growing body of research on the use of telehealth for the purposes of patient consultation, health monitoring, education, training and supervision purposes.  However, in terms of evidence on the effectiveness of telehealth primarily for student clinical supervision purposes there does not seem to be a great deal of published research in this area.  Consequently, it would appear that more needs to be done as telehealth is more frequently being used in this way particularly in remote locations and where supervisory staff are in limited supply.



A wiki is a space on the worldwide web (www) where you can share your work and ideas, pictures and links, videos and media — and anything else you can think of.  You may want your students to collaborate to build their own educational wiki.  So, if that sounds useful to you check out: Wikispaces

At Wikispaces you are provided with a range of tools and a visual editor to help make sharing all kinds of content easy – try it out!

How can I make the two-student model effective?

Q:           There are pressures among most professions to take on more students and recently, in our hospital, we moved from taking one final year student per placement to two.  Many of my colleagues are unhappy, suggesting considerable extra workload, as well as the change having a negative impact on their ability to effectively teach and supervise.  Personally, I’m not finding it too much different. I see some advantages in how I use my time, by getting the students working together on basic tasks that previously I would have taken charge of, if there was only one student.  Do you have any suggestions on what I might do (or suggest to my colleagues) to make the two-student model effective?

A:            Firstly, congratulations as it sounds like you are already finding ways to adapt to having a 2nd student with you.  With the increase in training numbers in most health professions, the demand to provide more student placements is common, so you and your colleagues are not alone.  Here are some suggestions on how to prepare and manage the increased student numbers:

  1. Ensure you have a plan for the placement well in advance of taking on students.  This will help you clarify what you’ll need to do, who else will be involved and what they will do and how/where students can contribute as learners, teachers, peer support and as supernumerary assistants.
  2. When preparing this plan, think outside the square!  Where can students add value in your area/department?  How can you build their knowledge of, and interest in your organisation (i.e., hospital, private practice, aged care facility)?  Remember – they may be a future employee.  Beyond the patient-related activities, how can you round out their experience and develop their awareness of the broader team and health care system?  This may involve opportunities to observe, spending time with other staff and involvement in organisation-wide activities.  With these points in mind, your plan should be varied, flexible and, most importantly, not fully reliant on you for delivery of every element.
  3. Liaise with the training institution to get a clear understanding of what knowledge and skills the students should have when they get to you and incorporate this into your plan.  Ideally, seek to provide students coming to your area with the plan at least one-week before they arrive, so they can prepare and know what to expect.
  4. Early in the first week meet with your students to discuss any questions they may have about the plan and to share your expectations of yourself and of them.  Also, invite them to identify specific areas of strength, interest and developmental need that can be incorporated into the plan before you finalise it together.
  5. Have a plan B, which is to say plan A (discussed above) is the best case scenario when you have motivated, prepared learners BUT sometimes you will have to deal with those at the other end of the spectrum or you may have one good student and one poor student.  So, plan B is your approach in a worst case scenario.  It may mean students are given less independence or exposure in some situations; it might require you to have a higher level of input.  Critically, if you have thought about and prepared in advance it will be easier for you to deal with the situation if it arises.
  6. Reciprocal peer coaching is a constructive way to support teaching and learning with students who can work as a dyad on a range of tasks.  Decide which activities the two students can do together, which require direct supervision or teaching from you and any that can be overseen by other staff.
  7. Finally, when working with final year students it is reasonable to place a high level of responsibility on them to achieve the outcomes agreed in the plan.  However, also be very clear about the level required and work to meeting that, NOT trying to develop them to your level of competency.

How do I assess the quality of my clinical teaching?

Q:   I’m interested in trying to assess the quality of my clinical teaching.  Can you provide any advice/suggestions on a good way to do this?

A:    There are various ways you might approach this, depending on who your audience is (eg undergraduate, postgraduate students or colleagues) and how and when you might try to collect this information.  In addition, the importance of the immediacy of feedback, how much time you and they have available and the tool(s) you might use, will also need to be considered.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. One of the simplest methods is to conduct a 2-minute paper at the end of a clinical teaching session.  It may be in the form of 1-2 questions that can provide you with immediate feedback on the quality of your clinical teaching.  For example;

Q1: What was the best part of this clinical teaching session?

Q2: From your perspective, what areas or information covered still require further explanation?

2. If you are working with undergraduate or postgraduate students, check with their training institution to see whether they collect any evaluation information from the students on their clinical placement experiences.  If they do, ask if you can be provided with copies (with any identifying details removed).  This information may or may not directly address the ‘quality of your clinical teaching’, but where it exists it will provide you with valuable feedback on the placement from a learner’s perspective.

3. You may decide to directly survey your students to get their feedback.  In this case you may have specific questions you’d like to ask, or you can use an existing tool if it will meet your needs (The Clinical Teaching Effectiveness Instrument, Hem-Stokroos etal (2005), and the Maastricht Clinical Teaching Questionnaire, Stalmeijer etal (2010) provide examples of two possible tools).

Note: If you adopt this approach I recommend you implement your feedback survey once all assessment requirements are completed.  Even better, get a colleague to hand it out/collect it in on your behalf.  This will go some way towards addressing the potential for social desirability bias.

  1. In conjunction with student feedback collected in one of the above ways, it may be useful for you to independently self-assess and then compare your perspective with that of your learners. (The Stalmeijer etal (2010) article on student ratings and self-assessment provides an example of this approach).

Goodluck – I hope this information helps!

Further Information

Please refer to the following journal articles:

van der Hem-Stokroos, H.H., van der Vleuten C.P.M., Daelmans, H.E.M., Haarman, H.J.T.M., Scherpbier, A.J.J.A. (2005). Reliability of the Clinical Teaching Effectiveness Instrument. Medical Education; 39: 904-910.

Stalmeijer, R.E., Dolmans, D.H.J.M, Wolfhagen, I.H.A.P., Muijtjens, A.M.M., Scherpbier, A.J.J.A. (2010). The Maastricht Clinical Teaching Questionnaire (MCTQ) as a valid and reliable instrument for the evaluation of clinical teachers. Academic Medicine; 85: 1732-1738.

Stalmeijer, R.E., Dolmans, D.H.J.M, Wolfhagen, I.H.A.P., Peters, W.G., van Coppenolle, L., Scherpbier, A.J.J.A. (2010). Combined student ratings and self-assessment provide useful feedback for clinical teachers. Advances in Health Science Education; 15: 315-328.