Assessment “for learning” approaches in the development of work-ready paramedic graduates

Author: James Thompson

Thompson, James, 2020 Assessment “for learning” approaches in the development of work-ready paramedic graduates, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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The professional capabilities of graduate paramedics are a critical concern of many stakeholder groups, not least the communities they serve. Following the transition of paramedic education from apprenticeship-style vocational training to professional education within universities, paramedic courses have faced criticism from industry partners, who have challenged the “work-readiness” of graduates entering the national paramedic workforce. Decisions about graduate work-readiness are complicated by complex tensions, including changing modern healthcare demands, student expectations, university practices, and industry agendas. These tensions result in conflicting opinions about expected performance standards, how these are best achieved, how to assess and assure that these expectations have been met, and who is best qualified to determine these.

This thesis presents findings from a series of interlinked projects with the shared objectives of gaining a better understanding of and responding to the challenges of developing work-ready paramedic graduates. The strategies employed to meet these challenges are evidenced through eight peer-reviewed publications that report the outcomes of multiple separate research projects. These largely focus on the final period of study within a paramedic program and on the unique needs of graduate students as they prepare to enter employment and practice as paramedic professionals. This final period of education in paramedic programs presents a critical interface between university education, students, and industry and has had a volatile history following the transition from vocational to university education. The focus for these projects is university assessment practices, recognising the critical responsibilities of universities in assuring learning attainment and the role assessment plays in shaping student learning.

This thesis explores the use of assessment as an instrument for educational reform using an overarching action research methodology. This methodology unites multiple, interrelated projects that are the basis for the eight publications. Each publication complements and provides a foundation for the next and collectively they contribute to the generation of new knowledge and new theory regarding paramedic education. Key findings emerging from the studies include; a description of the process of care which defines the modern paramedic role, construction of the first complete professional knowledge taxonomy, and detail and interpretation of the meaning of work-readiness. The collective findings offer validation of a new student-centred learning design, with personalised assessment for learning approaches, that have produced evidence of enhanced validity and reliability in making a determination of students’ work-ready capability.

Keywords: Paramedic Education, Assessment for Learning, Self-regulated Learning, Capstone, Medical Education, Work-readiness, Individualised learning

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Professor Jan Orrell