Master Educator Series: Incorporating Critical Thinking into Complex Skills Instruction 3.0

Author Bio:  Randall W. Benner has over 25 years combined experience in the delivery of pre-hospital medicine, critical care transport medicine, prehospital care education, and EMS curriculum design. His professional entrenchment is complemented with an associate degree in paramedicine, a baccalaureate degree in Emergency Medical Services, a graduate degree in Education, and is nearing completion of a PhD in Curriculum Instruction and Design.

Mr. Benner has contributed to numerous EMS journal publications, textbooks, instructor resource materials, online educational programs, as well as authored several of his own works. He is a charter member for the National Association of EMS Educators and has also been invited to contribute to the EMS national standard curricula on each of the past 3 revisions by NHTSA. He serves on several EMS related committees and presents regularly at local and national conferences on topics such as critical care transport medicine, prehospital medicine, and concepts in EMS education. While still functioning actively as a flight paramedic, he is a full time academic based educator in southwest Ohio.

Course Description:

This course is designed to achieve three overall goals. The first is to understand the importance of structuring complex skill instruction into an educational design that will enable student progression from novice to expert. A second goal is to understand the importance of incorporating critical thinking scenarios (with use of high-fidelity human patient simulators) in the educational process, thereby ensuring that the student can integrate patient care skills into the overall patient scenario in a controlled laboratory setting. The third goal is to provide examples and models that the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) educator can immediately use to improve the teaching, evaluation, and integration of skills within the educational program.  Each course will require 2-4 hours to complete.

Student Audience:

The intended audience for this type of program includes both new and experienced Emergency Medical Services (EMS) educators responsible for skill acquisition in the laboratory setting, as well as preceptors responsible for evaluating the mastery of skills in the internship and clinical setting. In the former learning environment, the student does not yet know what he or she does not know (subconscious incompetent), so the educator should employ specific learning strategies to increase the student’s knowledge about the skill. In the latter learning environment, it is expected that the student will perform at or near the competent entry-level provider (subconscious competent), and as such, the educator will employ different teaching and assessment strategies to ensure that competency is met.

Lesson 1: Incorporating Critical Thinking Into Complex Skills Instruction


  •   Explain the steps of teaching complex skills in the classroom environment
  •   Differentiate when to use "skill task trainers" versus "human patient simulators" during skills teaching and evaluation
  •   Explain the use of critical thinking skills as they are used in the evaluation of complex skill demonstrations
  •   Explain the special critical thinking considerations when teaching practical skills

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