Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

Planning a degree programme in podiatry, based on a medical problem solving curriculum and developed from an industrial needs analysis

Cameron Kippen
Curtin University

In 1992, the New Zealand National Diploma in Podiatry was upgraded to Bachelor of Health Science (Podiatry). The new programme was developed around a core of professional competencies identified from an industrial needs analysis. The New Zealand qualification now offers successful graduates a recognised academic qualification coupled with competence training to the level of professional registration to practice within the Commonwealth. The degree has been described as student centred with a problem based learning bias. The professional education programme prepares new graduates to cope with the challenges of the future. The academic programme enables students to apply scientific inquiry to clinical health care. Faculty members facilitate learning by providing relevant problem based experiences including patient problems, simulated and real, referring students to written text and scientific papers to critique; action projects and multimedia, as well as counselling, practical demonstration and supervised practice.


Writing an academic programme around a spine of professional competencies is not a new concept in higher education but this programme is the only one of its type in the world. In 1987, the Central Institute of Technology undertook an innovative curriculum review and commissioned an independent needs analysis to identify the competencies required by a podiatrist in the year 2000. To validate these competences, comparisons were made with other studies from around the world. The common features gave the New Zealand Analysis considerable ecological validity but little importance was placed on core skills such as practical treatment, judgement in implementing care, and continuing care. Since these skills were considered crucial to the work of a podiatrist all twelve were written as separate competencies. Statements of general learning outcomes for each competence were prepared and a job profile for the new graduate compiled. The degree programme was systematically written to meet each competence.

Course syllabus

The new syllabus consists of five main academic strands which require to be studied at three different levels. These are Applied Science, Applied Anatomy & Physiology, Podiatric Medicine, Allied Pharmacology & Medical Science, and Clinical Studies. Core subjects are horizontally integrated across each year; then spiral throughout the three years of study. The programme attempts to provide a wide base academic experience in issues concerning the provision of health care within New Zealand and is specifically directed towards the vocational area of clinical podiatry. Clinical education is based on patient problem solving, students are required to gather information and interact with integrated teaching components which are part of a planned curriculum led, systematised approach to accelerated learning.

Teaching strategy

The student centred approach increases motivation to learn and emphasis on self directed learning prepares the graduate for life long education. Students tackle real patient problems including foot health delivery, medical science dilemmas and research issues. The appropriate choice of clinical problems in the early years of the course encourages the acquisition of relevant knowledge, such as, anatomy and physiology; biochemistry, molecular biology and immunology. By guided discovery techniques the student begins to show understanding of fundamental concepts and vocabulary for each discipline. The integrated body of relevant knowledge facilitates individual needs within an otherwise overcrowded curriculum. The integrated teaching approach required, helps reduce fragmentation, motivates and shapes positive attitudes, as well as promoting staff communication. In the planned and systematised approach to curriculum, a negotiated programme is designed for all students so that all the experiences necessary for their training are covered.

Clinical education

Clinical training is concerned with effective time management and consists of three distinct levels of competence. Training clinics in year one, require students to refine basic podiatric core skills and learn how to apply problem orientated strategies to patient care. Comprehensive clinics in year two, access junior clinicians to foot care of low risk patient groups. Students undertake supervised patient management programmes designed to develop awareness of continuity of care. By year three, senior students have basic competencies in podiatric acumen and are expected to perform the duties of a junior practitioner in the total care of their patients, under the direct supervision of podiatric specialists. Valid and reliable assessment methods are chosen to match individual learning outcomes for each module and shared assignments, across subject areas, are encouraged.


Identification of professional competencies gave the vehicle to systematise the course programme and marry academic development with clinical training. The close relationship between the institute (or provider) and the industry (or consumer) facilitated mutual objectives and set target goals for the year 2000. The programme was written in twelve months and was required to meet very strict external criteria set by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Preparing staff to teach on the new programme presented the greatest challenge. The paradigm shift from the traditional course delivery necessitated considerable staff counselling and retraining. Student support material has proven to be very important. In the absence of a formal course review only an illuminative report is possible. The course is now however in its third year and seems to have survived with no major rewrites.


Ashford, R. L. (1991), Chiropodial competences identified by the delphi technique. Journal of British Podiatric Medicine, 46(7), 123-126.

Ashford, R. L. and Hamilton, D. (1990). Identifying the competences required by the state registered chiropodist: A dacum workshop. The Chiropodist, 45(7), 129-132.

Competency Standards and Related Assessment Methods for the Australian Podiatry Profession. Victoria, Australian Podiatry Council, 1994.

Chiropodial Clinical Education Seminar. Jordanhill College of Further Education, Glasgow, 1984.

Critical Incident Technique Analysis of Chiropodial Competence. Report prepared for the Educational Advisory Board, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, London, 1990.

Podiatry Needs Analysis. Report prepared by the Podiatry Curriculum Review Sub-committee for Central Institute of Technology, New Zealand, 1987.

Please cite as: Kippen, C. (1995). Planning a degree programme in podiatry, based on a medical problem solving curriculum and developed from an industrial needs analysis. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p144-145. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/kippen.html

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