The time lag between needs assessment and implementation of faculty development curricula assumes a certain stability of participants’ individual and contextual needs which may not reflect the often complex and shifting priorities in health professional schools. In addition to the variability of issues they face, participants are typically better able to recognize and articulate their needs once engaged in a curriculum.
This article is a conceptual description of how applying an umbrella strategy to curriculum design illuminated an iterative methodology for continuous adaptation of the 2004–2006 University of Toronto Education Scholars Program in real time to the emergent needs of participants and their context. The general goals or umbrella for the core curriculum were determined by a broad-based environmental scan. In keeping with a learner-centered collaborative program, a number of process strategies were developed to solicit input from participants during the two years of the program. These included creating a dialogue space, use of class and program evaluations, modified Delphi needs assessments, and opinion leader interviews. Adaptation of curriculum was enabled by protection of curriculum time and flexibility of course leadership. The application of strategy theory to curriculum design has not been previously described. This iterative approach enabled course leadership to successfully identify multiple unperceived issues to address. With this unique and cyclical process, curricular relevance and timeliness are ensured as well as enhancing participant motivation and engagement, consistent with adult learning principles. This methodology should be considered by course directors of all continuing professional development programs.