Criteria-based vs Fact-based education

By Dan Limmer

criteria basedThere are times I do things in life that match my classroom philosophy. This one was an interaction I had with my 9-year-old daughter.

We were at the gas station. I was filling up my truck so we were going to be there for a bit. My daughter asked if she could “buy something” inside the convenience store. We all know this is code for candy.

I considered saying no. Then I considered going in with her after I was finished pumping gas. Instead I decided to give her criteria to follow. I gave her a $5 bill and three criteria:

  • Be safe in the parking lot.
  • Don’t buy something giant or full of sugar.
  • Bring me back change.

I watched her register the criteria and off she went on her mission. She returned a short time later with a reasonable snack, a little something for me (that got her style points) and change. My experiment was a success.

I could have told my daughter to wait until I was done and then gone in with her. I could have picked the snack for her and paid. But instead she got the choice, the responsibility and the thrill of doing it herself. It builds life skills and decision-making.

By now you probably know how this relates to EMS education. How often do you give your students criteria (as opposed to concrete rules and facts)? Consider these situations that give students choice, responsibility and thrill:

Instead of using skill sheets in a musculoskeletal station near the end of class, just give the true criteria for splinting: immobilize the bone ends and adjacent joints, minimize movement of the extremity during splinting, and the splint must be effective. This more closely resembles practice.

Instead of teaching the signs and symptoms of a cardiac emergency, give a patient age and condition and let the students build the signs and symptoms they might expect to see. The discussion and research they will use—added to the feedback you provide will be much better learning than a lecture.

How could you build criteria-based exercises into your class? We’d love to hear your ideas.