Framework-Based Teaching and Learning

The Applied Learning Platform supports the use of frameworks to assist in teaching and learning. These frameworks are an effective mechanism for providing a systematic approach to solving similar problems or applying one's expertise. Frameworks can initially be included in applied learning activities when learners need guidance, and removed gradually as learners grow in competence. The goal is that learners will internalize these frameworks as a consistent part of their mental schema and problem-solving processes.

There are two main types of frameworks that assist schema building and enhance cognitive strategies: General and Guided.

General framework

A general framework is a consistent and systematic approach to solving similar problems or applying one's expertise. This type of framework should be internalized for use in similar situations.

Examples of general frameworks in medicine include the SOAP framework for communicating about a patient (S - Subjective findings, O - Objective findings, A - Assessment of the patient, P - Plan of action), or DAMN IT when determining a diagnosis for a patient (D - Degenerative, A - Anomalous, M - Metabolic, N - Nutritional, I - Inflammatory, and T - Traumatic).

Another example of a general framework is a project management framework for managing a project, or building an analysis/evaluation of a struggling or failed project.

One type of project management framework includes the top level categories of 1) Definition, 2) Planning, and 3) Control.

Under Definition, topics include:
Project Charter, Statement of Work, and Responsibility Matrix.

Under Planning, topics include:
Scope, Schedule, Cost/Procurement, Quality Management, and a Communication Plan.

Under Control, topics include:
Progress Measurement, Communication Management, Corrective Action, and Project Closure.

Each of the above topics in the framework direct a project manager's attention to that area for consideration. In addition, members of a project team can use the topics of the framework to assess how well the project is progressing, along with any areas that are being overlooked. It is important to note that general frameworks should be customized to meet the specific needs of a particular domain.

General frameworks are a balance between useful and usable. For example, a three-category framework of Definition, Planning, and Control is not very useful, while a 300-category framework may or may not be usable depending upon the domain and task at hand.

Guiding framework

A guiding framework differs from a general framework in that it provides a step-by-step process for learners to use when working through a specific learning activity. These steps are a series of questions or statements that direct a learner’s attention, such as:

  • What relevant considerations are important in this situation?
  • For each consideration, explain why it is important?
  • Do these data appear to be accurate? Justify your answer.

(or with even more guidance provided)

  • These data are not accurate. What problems do you see?
  • What do you know from the Chi Square test results?

(or with even less guidance provided)

  • What statistical test(s) should you use to analyze these data? Justify your answer.

Framework-assisted learning

Frameworks that reflect significant competency in problem-solving are complex and should be introduced to learners gradually.

There are two commonly used strategies for implementation. First, initial applied learning activities include all of the top-level elements of a framework without any of their sub-elements. Subsequent activities gradually introduce the sub-elements.

Second, initial activities include a single top-level element with all of its sub-elements. Subsequent activities introduce additional top-level elements and reinforce those that have already been learned.

An example of the first is with a project management framework in which initial applied learning activities include only the five top-level elements of 1) Initiation of the Project, 2) Planning, 3) Execution, 4) Monitoring and Controlling, and 5) Closeout, without any of their sub-elements. As learners grow in expertise, sub-elements of each top-level element are introduced.

The other approach is to implement a project management framework that only includes a single top-level element such as Initiation of the Project, along with its sub-elements such as, Develop the Charter, and Identify Stakeholders with their Expectations and Impact on Outcome. Subsequent activities might only include the second top-level element of Planning, or both, Initiation and Planning. Depending on the complexity of the framework, an activity may only include the top-level element, and gradually introduce its sub-elements.

In short, the gradual implementation of frameworks with interactive applied learning activities is about building expert mental schemas in learners.