Collaborating on a New Learning Strategy to Improve FETP Quality
In order to ensure a well-trained and professional global field epidemiology workforce prepared to address evolving public health priorities, the FETP Learning Advisory Council, or FLAC, is driving the development of a comprehensive new learning strategy for the FETP enterprise and supporting its implementation.
As defined in the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap, the “FETP enterprise” is a term encompassing the broad array of leaders, funders, implementing partners, government agencies and other stakeholders engaged in the effort to establish, manage, and sustain field epidemiology training programs (FETPs). It also includes the associated workforce competency targets, standards, agreements, and technologies supporting this work.
One of the recommendations for implementing this roadmap directly aligns with TEPHINET’s mission strategic goal of supporting continuous learning within the global FETP community. The recommendation calls for the continual monitoring and improving of the FETP enterprise, especially regarding the expansion and modernization of the FETP core competencies and curricula. The roadmap also calls for integrating essential non-epidemiological skills, such as project management, and fostering a culture of life-long learning among FETP fellows and graduates.
TEPHINET established the FLAC in 2019 to assess and advise on learning initiatives within the global FETP community.
“One thing that was clear, and that led to the establishment of the FLAC, was the need to expand and modernize FETP core competencies and curricula in order to improve the quality of training and produce a better-prepared workforce for advancing global health security,” says Dr. Carl Reddy, the director of TEPHINET.
Currently composed of eight (soon to be ten) FETP learning experts, the FLAC met initially in May 2019 and, subsequently, began defining gaps and needed approaches in key areas related to learning during the period leading up to the 10th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in October 2019. At the conference, the FLAC hosted an interactive session with conference participants, among whom were several FETP directors and coordinators, to obtain vital input for this work.
“The conference was our first opportunity to present the FLAC and its related work to the wider FETP community, raise awareness and receive feedback,” says Claire Jennings, a TEPHINET project manager. Jennings manages TEPHINET’s emerging learning program. “We felt enthusiasm, motivation, and a strong need to share experiences and best practices related to learning from participants in the conference session.”
During the session, facilitators split the audience into small groups, with FLAC members guiding each group through discussions to gather input and examples related to members’ successes and challenges in learning across different programs. Out of these discussions emerged a few high-level themes including staff and mentor training and professional development, cross-border and cross-program collaboration and knowledge exchange, development of high-quality, localized case studies and contextual learning, and continuous learning for alumni, (including an interest in the credentialing of individuals).
“These themes validated our initial information-gathering and FLAC discussions to date and echoed feedback we received at two TEPHINET program directors meetings, as well as feedback we received from the 2019 TEPHINET annual membership survey,” says Jennings.
Now, TEPHINET and the FLAC are incorporating that feedback and conducting further gap analysis in order to draft the new learning strategy.
TEPHINET is working with FETPs to identify program staff to serve as focal points in a global FETP “learning network.” Ideal focal points are members of FETP teams who are directly involved in learning-related activities—for example, curriculum development, training facilitation, or instructional design—in their official roles, or those who serve unofficially as champions for learning-related activities in their organizations.
In addition, TEPHINET has reached out to alumni and programs to identify FETP faculty or recent FETP graduates who are interested in joining working groups focused on three priority technical work areas to advance the learning strategy and its implementation: 1) competencies, 2) quality, and 3) collaboration and knowledge exchange. TEPHINET and the FLAC aim to select working group members by the end of January 2020. These working groups will meet virtually to contribute to the creation of the strategy, with the possibility of an in-person meeting to begin related action planning once the strategy is finalized later in 2020. These working groups will be time-bound, with future opportunities for other groups and members to achieve specific goals.
“TEPHINET will include various stakeholders at other points in the strategy validation process, reaching out primarily via email, so stay alert to your inbox,” says Jennings.
Interested individuals should contact Claire Jennings at cjennings [at] tephinet [dot] org for more information about the broader learning network and/or current technical working groups.
Other TEPHINET Learning Activities
All of this work is part of TEPHINET’s larger learning program. At the conference, TEPHINET also highlighted other learning initiatives such as the upcoming release of a new One Health case study based on an outbreak of anthrax in the mountains of Uganda. TEPHINET will release an e-learning module for this case study by August 2020. A classroom version, for use by FETPs, is available now (please email cjennings [at] tephinet [dot] org for more information).
At the conference, TEPHINET also demonstrated virtual reality (VR) technology as an innovative teaching method and is available to discuss potential collaboration opportunities around the use of this technology.
Apart from the conference, TEPHINET is working on updating its existing risk communications curriculum and packaging it for different target audiences, including the FETP community. TEPHINET’s member programs and FETP alumni can expect to hear from the TEPHINET Secretariat in the near future regarding both a risk communications needs assessment and the development of the learning strategy.