Competency-Based Midwifery Education

AUGUST 2013 Enews Articles


Competency-Based Midwifery Education
by Breyette Lorntz

What do the US Department of Education and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have in common? The answer has to do with recent descriptions and affirmations of competency-based education. This article provides a brief introduction to both sets of efforts and presents an actionable definition for Midwives on the Cutting Edge: Competency-based educational models that bridges both organizations.

In 2010, the International Confederation of Midwives published the Global Standards for Basic Midwifery Education. These far-ranging standards set “quality indicators on global expectations” and covered all aspects of midwifery education, including setting standards for both content and delivery of standard content. The intent was to present a globalized and/or globalizable set of standards to use as inspiration and evaluation throughout the world.

A full three years later, the US Department of Education announced the endorsement of competency-based education – apart from the traditional credit hour – as an approved measure of student learning. This is a radical change indeed from what has been the standard in higher education since its inception in the New World. At the center is a change in andragogical focus – from measuring time to measuring learning. Students are charged with demonstrating mastery of core concepts, regardless of the time needed for their completion.

In just a few short months, a number of US universities and colleges have jumped at the chance to join this effort. These include Baylor University, Southern New Hampshire and Capella University, among many others. Higher education publications are abuzz with declarations and questions regarding the implications of this radical change for the future.

What are the implications of the movement toward competency-based education for midwifery educators and midwifery education in general? Where do midwifery educators stand on this issue? Where should we stand? What are current examples of excellence in the delivery of competency-based education by midwives?

In this issue, Heidi Fillmore describes how competency-based education has traditionally been embraced by direct entry midwives, especially within the preceptor-apprentice model, and Ida Darragh demonstrates its value to the NARM certification process. The conversation does change within MEAC and ACME accredited schools, where credit hours can still prevail for non-clinical courses. Mary Yglesia and Susi Delaney portray the support available to this learning paradigm through electronic clinical tracking, noting the strengths and challenges this approach engenders. Anne Frye’s example of Understanding Pelvic Soft Tissue Anatomy provides a concrete application of competency-based education. Pat Burkhardt introduces problem-based learning as a tool to help students achieve competency.

As you read each of these articles, consider the following definition of Midwives on the Cutting Edge: Competency-based educational models: Midwifery training grounded in ICM standards where student learning is the exclusive measure of academic accomplishment. Is it a good fit? If not, how should it be modified?

In this issue, we begin to address key issues and questions regarding the intersection of competency-based education and midwifery education. More importantly, we reach out to you as fellow educators to join this journey with us.

Breyette Lorntz, PhD is an aspiring midwife who has served on the AME board since 2011. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her children and assortment of pets.

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