AO Glossary of Educational Terms

  • Accreditation

    A regulatory process by which governmental, non-governmental, voluntary associations or other statutory bodies grant formal recognition to educational programs or institutions that meet stated criteria of educational quality. Educational programs or institutions are measured against certain standards by a review of written information, self-studies, site visits to the educational program, and thoughtful consideration of the findings by a review committee. Whereas programs or institutions are accredited, individual physicians are licensed or certified.

  • Assessment

    Assessment is the process of understanding the state or condition of a thing or process, by observation and measurement. “Formative” assessment is measurement for the purpose of improvement. “Summative” assessment is measurement for the purpose of grading or licensing. Assessment refers to the individual while evaluation refers to a program, course or institution.

  • Asset / educational asset

    A resource in the form of media or documents that can be applied as a learning aid, teaching tool, reference, assessment instrument, etc. The term "asset" implies that these resources represent value to the organization which benefits from it, and/or allows it to reach its goals.

  • Asynchronous

    Forms of education, instruction, and learning that do not occur at the same time or in 'real time'. It can also refer to training that is accessed at any time and does not require the facilitator to be available when the participant is accessing the materials or completing training assignments. In asynchronous teaching, the participation of the learner, other learners, and the teacher does usually occur at different times.

  • Attitude

    A settled way of thinking or feeling about something. Attitudes are complex mental dispositions that are thought to influence the way in which individual's process information and to motivate behavior. Attitudes can be inferred by observing an individual's response to a situation but cannot be directly measured. Responses can be behavioral (actions, intentions to act; cognitive (thoughts, opinions), and affective (feelings, emotions and autonomic nervous system activity)

  • Backward planning

    A process for developing competency-based education that responds to and impacts patient health. Subject matter experts (SMEs) consider a) the patient problems addressed by the target audience, and b) the performance that these problems demand of the surgeon. Out of this, the essential competencies (abilities) are generated. Based on these competencies, a given educational activity is developed, which in turn addresses learning objectives derived from the competencies. These educational outcomes are targeted to directly impact corresponding clinical performance and so improve patient health.

  • Blended

    An approach that mixes educational methods and modalities (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, remote).

  • Blended learning

    An educational program that uses a variety of instructional formats. Blended learning usually refers to a mix of online activities, simulations, and face-to-face events. Sometimes it is also called hybrid learning.

  • Certification

    A process indicating that an individual or institution has met predetermined standards. Individuals are certified or licensed while institutions or programs are accredited.

  • CME

    A continuing process or a range of learning activities, following on from formal undergraduate and resident training through which practicing physicians maintain and develop throughout their careers to ensure that they retain their capacity to practice safely, effectively, and legally sound within their evolving scope of practice. The term is mostly used today with "accreditation" to refer to points systems that provide a means to regulate/monitor the safety and quality of care provided for patients by practicing physicians in a medical regulatory system, eg, UEMS.

  • Coaching

    A form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training, advice, and guidance. Coaching is task oriented (focusing on concrete issues, eg, managing effectively, thinking strategically, etc), short-term, and performance-driven (enhancing current skills or acquiring new skills) activity that does not necessarily require design (eg, can be conducted almost immediately on any given topic).

  • Commitment To Change (CTC)

    A tool to assess the impact of an educational activity or event on practice. Participants document the changes they intend to make as a result of an educational activity and, at follow-up, report the implementation status of the change and any barrier they may have encountered. CTC is a measure and a tool at the same time because it has been shown to foster the implementation of changes participants commit to.

  • Community of Practice (CoP)

    "A group of people who share a set of problems and a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Endsley et al, 2005). Their interaction is voluntary and can take place online or in person.

  • Competence

    What a physician is capable of doing, as demonstrated in an educational setting.

  • Competency

    An ability of a health professional to perform in a way that leads to appropriate patient care outcomes. A competency is a unique combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes that result in successful performance.

  • Competency-based curriculum

    A curriculum that has been developed using backward planning to identify competencies. Within the AO, a competency-based curriculum meets all defined quality and implementation criteria.

  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

    A continuing process that allows health professionals to tailor their learning to their needs and to shift control of learning to the individual. CPD embraces information technologies to provide professionals with greater opportunities to learn effectively. A CPD system advances evidence-based, interprofessional, team-based learning and collaboration and leads to improvements in patient health and safety. CPD includes components of CME but has a broader focus, such as identifying problems and applying solutions.

  • Continuity, Sequence, Integration (CSI)

    Dividing, grouping, and sequencing of content and activities within a program. Continuity provides learners the opportunity to revisit knowledge and skills in increasing depth as they progress through an educational activity. Sequence in an educational plan focuses on the order in which things occur: simple to complex learning, known to unknown. Integration is concerned with linkages of information enabling learners develop a holistic overview.

  • Core content

    Educational activities or objectives which must be included or addressed (as opposed to optional content).

  • Curriculum

    A statement of the intended aims and objectives, content, experiences, outcomes and processes of an education program, including a description of the target audience, (modular) structure, instructional methods, as well as assessment strategies. The curriculum sets out the competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors) the learner will achieve. It further specifies the ways in which it is delivered, implemented and evaluated.

  • Demonstration

    A teacher-centered instructional method designed to promote skill acquisition.

  • Education

    Process of teaching and learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits – and of changing attitudes.

  • Educational Activity

    The conducting of one or a set of educational methods (eg, lectures, small group discussions, demonstrations, simulations) chosen to achieve one or several pre-determined learning objectives.

  • Educational Event

    An educational activity that targets a synchronously assembled group of learners (eg, face-to-face or using distance education technology).

  • Educational method

    Educational method comprises the principles and methods used for instruction to be implemented by teachers to achieve the desired learning in students. These strategies are determined partly on subject matter to be taught and partly by the nature of the learner.

  • Educational Modality

    The way in which education is delivered eg, live or online; synchronous or asynchronous.

  • Educational Plan

    A detailed document for use of faculty and chairpersons, structured according to the schedule of an educational event that specifies the goals & objectives, provides an overview of (modular) structure including blended components, then for each activity learning objectives, instructional methods, available materials, resources, and teaching points.

  • Educational Program

    All planned and existing educational activities bundled around an identified set of competencies to be addressed by educational activities for a predetermined target audience (eg, AO Milestones, Global Spine Diploma ).

  • Educational strategies

    Once the goals and specific measurable objectives/outcomes for a curriculum have been determined, the next step is to develop the educational strategy by which the curricular objectives/outcomes will be achieved. Educational strategies involve both content and methods. Contents refer to the specific material to be included in the curriculum. Methods are the ways in which the content is presented.

  • Educational Technique

    see Educational Method

  • Educationalist

    A professional with specific knowledge of the principles and methods of teaching and learning in a facilitating role eg, a curriculum developer.

  • Educator
    A professional with specific knowledge of the principles and methods of teaching and learning in a teaching role.
  • eLearning

    The use of internet and multimedia technology to deliver and facilitate learning.

  • Evaluation

    A process of observing and measuring for the purpose of judging and of determining “value,” either by comparison to a benchmark or standard.

  • Facilitation

    The act of guiding others through a process toward a predetermined goal or to reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved.

  • Faculty Development

    Faculty development refers to all activities healthcare professionals pursue to improve their knowledge, skills, and behaviors as teachers and educators, leaders and managers, and researchers and scholars, in both individual and group settings. In the AO, faculty development refers to educational activities that improve surgeons' knowledge, skills, and attitudes in their roles as teachers and educators, course chairpersons, and educational leaders.

  • Faculty Syllabus

    A detailed document for faculty (and chairpersons), structured according to the educational activities that specifies broad objectives/goals, provides overview of (modular) structure including blended components, then for each activity learning objectives, instructional methods, available materials, resources, and teaching points.

  • Feedback

    A process of giving/receiving specific information comparing a learner's observed performance to a standard, with the intent to improve the learner's performance. Effective feedback is concrete, timely, constructive and non-judgmental. Within the context of the AO, feedback answers two important questions: “What went well?” and “Next time?”.

  • Gap

    The difference between what is and what should be, between an actual state (what is) and a desired state (what should be).

  • Hybrid

    Some participants attend virtually, others physically (in synchronously delivered educational activities).

  • Instructional Design

    The practice of creating instructional experiences which makes the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.

  • Interaction – Interactivity

    A way in which individuals, teacher or learner, affect one another in order to engage in further activities or discussion. The three types of interaction in education are:

    • learner–content
    • learner–instructor
    • learner–learner

    At the AO Foundation, we have designed our educational activities to promote interactivity in a number of ways, eg using case-based lectures, small group discussions, and hands-on practical exercises.

  • Interprofessional Education

    Interprofessional education occurs when two or more professions learn with, from, and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care.

  • Knowledge

    The cognitive domain is demonstrated by knowledge recall and reasoning ability, eg, comprehending information, organizing ideas, analyzing and synthesizing data, applying knowledge, choosing among alternatives in problem-solving, and evaluating ideas or actions. Declarative knowledge ("know") is the acquisition and interpretation of facts and the process of knowing what to do. Procedural knowledge ("know how") is the ability to describe how to do a task (and not necessarily the ability to actually carry it out).

  • Learning

    Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught. Life-long learning is continuous training over the course of a professional career. Because medical science changes so rapidly, it is vital that its practitioners are committed to and engage in life-long learning.

  • Learning objective

    A statement describing what the learner will be able to know or do after taking part in an educational activity. Objectives are concrete, domainspecific and measurable. They describe the outcome in the learner, e.g. “After participation in this course, the learner will be able to define educational terms and their use within AO”.

  • Learning Outcome

    Outcomes are all possible demonstrable results that stem from activities. Outcome refers to a new skill, knowledge, or attitude to improve the quality of patient care. Outcomes may be related to the educational process (process outcomes), to the product of undergraduate medical education (learning outcomes), or to the professional role of the physician (performance outcomes).

  • Level of outcomes

    In medical education, outcomes measurement is an important component. Moore et al outlined a 7-level approach: 1. Participation, 2. Satisfaction, 3. Learning (3A = Declarative knowledge, 3B = Procedural knowledge, 4. Competence, 5. Performance, 6. Patient health, 7. Community Health

  • Lifelong learning

    Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of competence for either personal or professional reasons.

  • Mentoring

    Mentoring is a temporary, stable relationship between an experienced tutor (mentor) and a less experienced mentee. It is characterized by mutual trust and goodwill, and its goal is the promotion of learning and development, as well as the progression of the mentee.

  • Metric

    A standard of measurement of quantitative assessments used for objective evaluation (to make comparisons or to track performance). In proficiency-based education, they are operational definitions characterizing a procedure.

  • Motivation, Learner Motivation

    To motivate is to stimulate a desire for new knowledge and skills. Motivation can be stimulated by creating needs (eg, identifying knowledge gaps, posing challenging questions, providing positive feedback, and acknowledging barriers such as stress). Without learner motivation, it is difficult, and almost impossible, to teach someone. Thus, in some educational situations, it may be necessary for the teacher to motivate the learner before diving deeper into the topic at hand.

  • Needs assessment

    A process that relies on data collection, collaboration, and negotiation to identify gaps in understanding and performance and to determine future actions.

  • Peer Review

    Evaluation of e.g. a manuscript or research proposal or process by professional colleagues; a process of evaluating research proposals, manuscripts submitted for publication, and abstracts submitted for presentation at a scientific meeting, whereby these are judged for technical and scientific merit by other scientists in the same field.

  • Performance

    What a physician does in practice. Performance is an observable behavior.

  • Procedure

    All or part of an operation or clinical task. It is made up of a unique group or series of integrally related and definable events or actions. An AO curriculum often includes a list of procedures for each level of learner and the intended level of outcome.

  • Proficiency

    The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition includes proficient/proficiency as a level between novice and expert. Gallagher et al defined proficiency as a benchmarked level of skill that a trainee should acquire before progressing to in vivo practice. Proficiency in a given task is a prerequisite to the unsupervised practice of this task.

  • Reflection

    An activity that, like feedback, has a potentially powerful learning effect for the individual, both in educational settings and in clinical practice, by giving meaning to complex situations and enabling deeper learning from personal experiences.

  • Relevance

    To make an educational event relevant, the reality of the learners' practice needs to be understood, the content needs to be based on identified knowledge gaps and the focus needs to be on clinical problems and knowledge that can be applied in practice. To make a curriculum relevant, planners need to understand the personal and situational characteristics of the learner, and the various patterns of information seeking that the learners find functional.

  • Reliability

    The degree to which an assessment tool produces stable and consistent results. It is the likelihood of achieving the same score if the test instrument is used again on the same object of measurement (equals the measurement error).

  • Self-Directed Learning (SDL)

    A process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

  • Simulation

    An educational method used to facilitate the effective and efficient training of skills outside the clinical situation thus minimizing the risk to the patient from at least part of the participant's learning curve.

  • Skill

    The ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to carry out complex activities or procedures smoothly and adaptively. Skills can be cognitive eg, clinical decision making, psychomotor eg, surgical or interventional, or communicative.

  • Subject Matter Expert (SME)

    An individual who is a recognized expert in a particular area or topic.

  • Synchronous

    A term used to describe forms of education, instruction, and learning that occur at the same time.

  • Target audience

    Individuals or group of individuals with similar educational needs.

  • Training

    The process by which someone actively learns the skills for a particular job or activity.

  • Validity

    The degree to which an assessment tool measures (eg, checklist) what it is designed to measure. It is an argumentation, not a number.

  • Virtual

    Not physically present in the same place. Also referred to as “remote”.

  • Webcast

    A webcast is a one-way flow of information, broadcast over the internet to a (large) audience. The audience does not usually contribute much to the content of the webcast, which might include an audio stream, presentation slides, or video clips.

  • Webinar

    A webinar is a live, interactive broadcast of a lecture or presentation on a predefined topic.