Looking ahead to 2021
The process for developing a revised set of learning outcomes is about to begin
The General Dental Council is embarking on the first of its planned revisions of learning outcomes which, from 2021, will form the basis of the curriculum at Scotland’s dental schools. The GDC will begin the process with a call for evidence towards the end of the year, followed by a consultation on its proposals – ahead of the publication of a revised set of learning outcomes at the end of 2020, to be in place at schools the following academic year.
It is the start of a new cycle of reviews which will occur every three to four years. Currently, learning outcomes are based on the GDC’s document Preparing for Practice, published in 2011 and revised in 2015. The aim of these, it says, is to develop a “rounded professional who, in addition to being a competent clinician and/or technician, will have the range of professional, communication, management and leadership skills required to begin working as part of a dental team and be well prepared for independent practice”.
The three-to four-year review period reflects the need to keep learning outcomes up to date with current and anticipated future dental practice
General Dental Council
Until now, however, there has been no official process for the regular review of learning outcomes, or specific plans for their future review. Following a public consultation, the GDC published its new process in August this year. “The three- to four-year review period reflects the need to keep the learning outcomes up to date with current and anticipated future dental practice,” it said. “This also acknowledges that major changes have resource implications for providers and can require a lengthy implementation process, therefore any shorter regular review period would be impractical.”
The GDC will conduct continuous evidence gathering to inform potential changes to the learning outcomes. This will include evidence on the performance of the extant learning outcomes, and analysis of the current and future state of dentistry, and national oral health need, suggesting the need for changes to the learning outcomes. Proposed changes to the learning outcomes will be developed with the assistance of an advisory expert reference group, which the GDC will consult at least once a year.
Three years into the review period, the GDC, with the aid of the reference group, will decide whether the evidence gathered is sufficient in itself to warrant consultation on proposed changes to learning outcomes. The alternative will be to postpone any changes for another year, which will allow further evidence gathering to take place. The GDC will make an exception to certain elements of the process if it considers that urgent changes to the learning outcomes, with clear implications to patient safety, must be made.
The reviews will not look solely at the learning outcomes that exist, but consider broader questions and trends, such as the population’s oral health need, public expectations of dental professionals, and any implications from data on complaints about dental professionals. The GDC already carries out research into, and analysis of, these broader policy areas, and it says this is key to the success of the regular reviews that it is coordinated and engaged with this work. When proposing and consulting on changes to the learning outcomes, the GDC will distinguish between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ changes. A major change might alter the meaning of a learning outcome, add or delete an outcome, introduce new skills or requirements, or have implications for a registrant’s scope of practice. The GDC will consult on major changes only once every three-to-four years and it expects providers to implement major changes from the commencement of the next programme cohort.
A minor change might be to amend the language or emphasis of an outcome, but not its substantial meaning. The GDC will consult on minor changes at its discretion, i.e. more frequently than every three-to-four years. As minor changes should not affect the delivery of a programme, the GDC considers such changes should be proposed and published as and when they become relevant. It will expect providers to implement minor changes as soon as possible.
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