The Core Competencies and Mft Education: Practical Aspects of Transitioning to a Learning-Centered, Outcome-Based Pedagogy

Article excerpt

The MFT core competencies and latest COAMFTE accreditation standards usher in a new paradigm for MFT education. This transition necessitates not only measuring student mastery of competencies but also, more importantly, adopting a contemporary pedagogical model. This article provides an overview of the changes, a review of parallel trends in other health professions, definitions of learning-centered and outcome-based pedagogy, and a detailed description of a systematic approach for developing a competency-based curriculum, including a list of educator competencies necessary for successful implementation.

The marriage and family therapy (MFT) educators are experiencing a period of unprecedented change. While debates about the merits of proposed requirements continue and meaningfully contribute to ongoing discipUnary development (Chenail, 2008; Nelson, 2008), those on the front lines currently face the challenge of implementing radically revised requirements for accreditation from aU accrediting bodies. Providing a practical introduction, this article provides an overview of recent MFT educational requirement revisions, a review of paraUel changes in other health professions, definitions of learning-centered and outcome-based pedagogy, and a detailed description of a systematic approach for developing a competency-based curriculum, including a list of educator competencies necessary for successful implementation.

THE DEMAND FOR COMPETENCE

In response to what public stakeholders perceive to be a "quality chasm" in health and mental health services in the United States (Hogan, 2003; Hoge, Huey, & O'Connell, 2003; Hoge et al., 2005; Nelson et al., 2007; President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003), there has been a nationwide initiative to increase the level of health practitioner competence. Within the arena of mental health, MFTs have been active in responding to the caU to improve the quality of healthcare training (Hoge et al., 2003). Along with a history of developing discipüne-wide assessment tools (Figley & Nelson, 1989; Nelson & Johnson, 1999), two developments in particular have put MFT education on the fast track to improving its standards: the MFT core competencies initiative sponsored by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Version 11 standard revisions (COAMFTE, 2005). Furthermore, forces from other stakeholders reinforce the direction of these two developments.

MFT Core Competencies

Developed in 2004 by a team of experts in the field with the feedback from numerous MFTs and public stakeholders, the AAMFT core competencies define 128 skills and areas of knowledge that an MFT should know to practice independently (AAMFT, 2002, 2004; Nelson, 2005; Nelson et al., 2007). The intention behind the core competencies was not only to create a useful list of skUls and knowledge but also to define how such knowledge would be obtained (Northey, 2005). A practical model for other mental health professions (Ries, McManis, «fe Daniels, 2005), the specificity of these competencies simplifies educators' job by operationally defining how these learning objectives will be met.

To assist in developing practical strategies for implementing the core competencies, the AAMFT assembled a Beta Test Group and provided them with resources as early adopters of the core competencies (Nelson et al., 2007). The Beta Test Group included a total of eight doctoral and master's programs at state, private, and religiously affiUated schools: AUiant University, Christian Theological Seminary, St. Mary's University, Saybrook, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Akron, University of Oregon, and Utah State University. Their work has been presented at conferences (AUgood et al., 2007; LinviUe, MiUer, & Todahl, 2007; MiUer, Todahl, & LinviUe, 2007; Openshaw, MiUer, Todahl, & Piatt, 2006; Piatt, Todahl, & MiUer, 2003) and in recent pubhcations (MiUer, in press; MiUer, LinviUe, Todahl, & Metcalf, 2009; MUler, Todahl, & Piatt, 2010). …