Unit 2: Creating tasks and projects that support competency in health professional education


Competency in Health Care

Competence can be defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. This is a very broad term and it's definition is open to interpretation. In this unit, we will discuss competency in health care and the steps that you can take to instruct your students in becoming competent health care professionals.

Competency in health care is the application and demonstration of appropriate knowledge, skills, and behaviors in a clinical setting. Competency is all-encompassing and more than just taking a course, passing a test, or completing a technical checklist. It is how a person processes and acts on information. As instructors, your goal is to ensure that your students can consistently demonstrate desired behaviors whatever the situation. Competency models focus on accountability and empowerment. Methods of validation are used to substantiate the multiple facets of any competency. Educational and health care facilities are required to determine the level of competency regarding their students and employees.

Competency assessment should begin based on clinical and learning goals. The overarching goal is to improve care by ensuring the competence of the people who deliver care. In any health care educational program, completing required competencies successfully empowers students and encourages their transformation from student to professional, apprentice to master. A master in any profession is accountable and, above all, competent. Students must be able to consistently demonstrate competency in a variety of situations to successfully transition into health care professionals. A successful approach will standardize the competency selection process while customizing competency assessment for specific job roles. Incorporating these strategies will transform competency from a compliance requirement to a key driver of clinical outcomes.

Each learner in this course is an educator in a specific field of health care. Whether you are instructing students in nursing, dental hygiene, physical/occupational therapy, radiology, etc., you will all be able to apply the Cognitive Apprenticeship (CA) model learned in Unit 1 to create tasks that support student competency. The CA model will enable you to encourage student competency by:

  • Modeling proper procedure, skill, and behavior while treating patients in clinical settings and making thinking visible by explaining your thought process behind your actions
  • Coaching students to replicate the procedure, skill, and behavior modeled by instructors while explaining what they should be thinking and considering while completing the task at hand
  • Utilizing scaffolds to seamlessly transition students from completing competencies requiring lower skill and performance to competencies requiring higher skill and performance; reminding students of their successful competency in previous tasks while completing more challenging competencies will promote student confidence
  • Encouraging students to articulate their confusion, concern, thoughts, and ideas regarding each required competency
  • Prompting students to reflect on their performance of each competency
  • Demonstrating confidence in students' competence in a particular skill by allowing them to practice (explore) that skill without direct observation



The first reading discusses how the medical profession uses an apprenticeship model to train future generations of physicians. I believe that the information in this article is relevant to the training of all health care professionals, not merely physicians:

1. https://www.mededportal.org/publication/10245/

Pay close attention to the case vignettes and think about how they could be revised to reflect the same conflict in the realm of your particular discipline***

The second reading (from Unit 1) does an excellent job of explaining how to design Cognitive Apprenticeship environments. Please read pages 150-156; pay special attention to Section IV and consider this section when creating your narrative assignment. You do not have to complete the activities, however, they should be used for deep thinking and reflection:

2. https://www.learner.org/courses/learningclassroom/support/08_cog_app.pdf

Activity: Narrative Assignment - CAT


Narrative Assignment - CAT

For this assignment, you will create a Cognitive Apprenticeship Task (CAT) based on a required competency within the curriculum of your specific discipline of health care education. You will choose a “competency” that students in your field of health care education must complete (example: wound dressing competency in nursing, periodontal probe competency in dental hygiene). You will describe in detail how you will utilize Cognitive Apprenticeship in your instruction technique to enable successful competency. Please be specific and narrate each step of your instruction leading up to your chosen competency. This assignment should be approximately 2 - 3 pages, double spaced.

Please email your CAT to me and post it in the discussion as well. Your classmates will benefit from your story.

****You will utilize the discussion area in this unit to collaborate with your classmates on this assignment. Make use of each other’s feedback and suggestions; you all have valuable experience as health care professionals and instructors. Although you may not all teach the same health care professional discipline, inter-professional collaboration is valuable and much can be learned from one another. ***

Discussion: Collaborate

For this discussion, you will share the topic of your narrative assignment. Based on your experience and your understanding of the material learned thus far, you will provide feedback and helpful suggestions for at least two classmates. If you see that a classmate already has responses, please respond to a classmate that does not have any. This discussion is meant to motivate you toward inter-professional collaboration; consider it an invitation into the world of your not-so-distant professional peers. I encourage you to respond to classmates who are not in your specific discipline (i.e. nurse educator responds to dental hygiene educator), however, you may respond to any classmate whom you feel you can assist.

The point of this discussion? To highlight the fact that Cognitive Apprenticeship can be utilized and is applicable in every health care professional disciplne.

Share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas with each other; share your successes and failures. Your CAT should be a reflection of this collaborative discussion.

Discussion area:


Activity: Reflective Journal


What aspects of creating your CAT (narrative assignment) did you find most challenging? Why? Do you feel that utilizing Cognitive Apprenticeship is beneficial in students successfully completing competencies? Why or why not? What does competency mean to you as an instructor?

Please email your journal entry to me upon completion of Unit 2.


Do you understand the meaning of competency in health care professional education? Can you create tasks that support this competency using CA?

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Move on to Unit 3: Guiding student performance

Go back to Unit 1: What is cognitive apprenticeship?

Go back to the home page: Cognitive Apprenticeship in Health Professional Education

Portfolio Page : Rosalie Forrester