Establishing indicators of competency for EMS instructors

Identifying the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected of educators

By Mike Touchstone

The topic of "competencies" comes up frequently in conversations about EMS practitioners, preceptors, instructors, supervisors, leaders, and managers. With the implementation of the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards (NES) — a set of competency-based standards that provides the expected outcomes of EMS education and training programs — it becomes ever more important for us to understand just what a "competency" is. According to the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (ibstpi), a competency is:

"A set of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable an individual to effectively perform the activities of a given occupation or job function to the standards expected in employment."
(Grabowski et al, 2004, p. 14)

The NES provides the standards and defines the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected of effective EMS practitioners. In order for EMS students to meet the standards and achieve success in EMS education and training programs, we need to identify and define the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected of EMS instructors.

In September of 2009, the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) posted a draft implementation timeline, the NASEMSO Timeline for Implementation of the EMS Education Agenda—2009. The timeline lists what is needed to implement the NES and indicates who has primary responsibility to meet the identified needs. For example, individual states assisted by NASEMSO must "identify instructor qualifications that must be met prior to using the Education Standards." The timeline draft shows this process beginning early 2010 and completed by the middle of 2011.

Identifying the needs
There are also four items in the timeline related specifically to "what's needed" for educators/instructors. These needs are:

• Establishing a checklist of instructor competencies

• Instructor orientation to assist transition from NSC to Education Standards (i.e. the differences in materials, focus on depth and breadth, focus on hours-based to competency-based lesson plan design)

• Instructor orientation to "bridge" concept from one level to the next higher level

• Identifying 6-12 month re-evaluation processes to measure instructional effectiveness (with the goal of providing further support and assistance to instructors as needed)

The timeline indicates that the primary responsibility for meeting these needs falls to the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE), with NASEMSO and publishers providing support. The timeline targets the end of 2010 as a deadline to establish an instructor competency checklist.

For those instructors out there who have an interest in participating in the NES implementation, furthering EMS education, or developing personal knowledge, skills, and attitudes, I would recommend joining NAEMSE. You can look at the Web site at I spoke to Tony Hartman, the Chairman of the NAEMSE Education Committee, and asked him for his thoughts regarding the role NAEMSE will have in implementing the NES, specifically in regard to instructor competencies. He responded:

As NAEMSE has been assigned tasks within the Education Agenda for the educators, within the NAEMSE organization several committees and members will be asked for assistance for completing this required component. One committee which has already begun work on competencies of educators is the Education Committee and will be presenting the information for the 2010 NAEMSE Conference in Schaumberg, Ill., from September 8-13, 2010. The committee is composed of NAEMSE membership and works collectively on a topic for educator enhancement each year. As the Education Agenda moves closer and each component of the Agenda needs is addressed, assigning portions to committees will aid in the success of implementation.

Look to others
Rather than "reinventing the wheel" when developing an EMS instructor competency checklist, I suggest turning to related instructor competencies that others have already completed and validated for guidance. The first resource is Instructor Competencies and Performance Indicators for the Improvement of Adult Education Programs published by the Building Professional Development Partnerships for Adult Education Project PRO-NET in 1999.

The second is Instructor Competencies: Standards for Face-to-face, Online and Blended Settings published in 2004 by Information Age Publishing in cooperation with the International Board of Standards for Training, Improvement, and Instruction (ibstpi) and the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT). The two sets of competencies are listed in Table 1 and Table 2.

Table 1. PRO-NET Instructor Competencies

PRO-NET Instructor Competencies



Knowledge Base and Pursues Own Professionalism

Develops and maintains a knowledge base in adult learning and development

Develops and maintains as in-depth knowledge base in own content area and in other relevant areas.

Knows how to instruct and/or refer adults who have learning disabilities and other special need (e.g. age, prior education, physical limitations)

Knows who have learning disabilities and other special need (e.g. age, prior education, physical limitations)

Knows and is sensitive to demands and responsibilities of adults as workers, family members, citizens and community members.

Knows how technological systems work and how to apply that knowledge to instructional and administrative functions

Knows about and/or knows how to access information about own organization, community, resources and issues, relevant laws and regulations.

Assesses own need for professional growth and develops and monitors own professional development plan.

Organizes and
Delivers Instruction

Engages in a variety of self-directed and collegial professional development activities and incorporates new skills and knowledge into learning environment to enhance the quality of instruction.

Plans instruction that is consistent with the programs mission and goals.

Identifies and responds to learners'' individual and group needs, interests, and goals when developing instructional plans.

Creates a physical and interpersonal climate that is conducive to learning by drawing on adult learning theory, and knowledge of learners cultures, and interpersonal dynamics.

Instructor applies knowledge of teacher-centered and learner-centered instruction.

Models communication, negotiation, decision-making, and problem solving skills for learners.

Employs individual, group, and team learning.

Sequences and paces lessons appropriately.

Is sensitive to and accommodates diverse learning styles, abilities, cultures, and experiences, including learners who have disabilities and other special needs.

Provides frequent and varied opportunities for students to apply their learning

Monitors and adjusts teaching strategies based upon student needs and performance.

Effectively integrates current and appropriate media and technology as a tool for instruction.

Integrates employment, family, and community-related activities into instruction.''

Manages Instructional Resources (Time, Material, Space, People)

Selects and uses a variety of resources for the learning environment (print, human, and technological).

Continuously Assesses and Monitors Learning

Acquires, accesses, and uses technology for effective adult learning.

Works with learners to identify their needs, strengths and goals, and advises or refers them to appropriate programs and level of instruction.

Uses results of assessment data (diagnostic and needs) on a regular basis to plan lessons, develop curricula, monitor progress towards objectives and goals and to verify learning.

Monitors learning beyond simple recall of information using a variety of of assessment strategies.

Structures and facilitates ways for learners and peer to evaluate and give feedback on their learning and performance, through reflection and self assessment.

Manages Program Responsibilities and Enhances Program Organization

Guides learners in the development and ongoing review of their educational plans.

Collects and manages accurate data for program improvement and accountability.

Suggests and/or collaborates in modifying the program organizations and in developing program alternatives. Shares information with learners and colleagues about additional learning resources, educational opportunities, and options for accessing support services.

Makes referrals to appropriate resources when guidance and counseling needs are beyond own expertise.


Table 2. ibstpi Instructor Competencies

ibstpi Competencies



Professional Foundations

Communicate Effectively

Update and improve one''s professional knowledge and skills

Comply with established ethical and legal practices

Plan instructional methods and materials

Planning and Preparation

Prepare for instruction

Stimulate and sustain learner motivation and engagement

Instructional Methods and Strategies

Demonstrate effective presentation skills

Demonstrate effective facilitation skills

Demonstrate effective questioning skills

Provide clarification and feedback

Promote retention of knowledge and skills

Promote transfer of knowledge and skills

Use media and technology to enhance learning and performance

Assess learning and performance

Evaluate instructional effectiveness

Assessment and Evaluation

Manage an environment that fosters learning and performance

Manage the instructional process through the appropriate use of technology

Each competency is accompanied by "Indicators of Competency" in the case of the PRO-NET document and "Performance Statements" in the ibstpi document that explain expected standards of knowledge, skill, and attitude. Using these documents as a foundation, we should be able to build a set of EMS instructor competencies. We can adapt, modify, and add EMS-specific components to the competencies already articulated and validated. In the end, we should be able to develop a consensus document — the "National EMS Instructor Competencies and Performance Standards" — that defines the minimums expected of EMS instructors.


Grabowski, B., et al (2004). Instructor competencies: standards for face-to-face, online and blended settings. Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, CT

Sherman, R., et al (1999). Instructor competencies and performance indicators for the improvement of adult educations programs. Building Professional Development Partnerships for Adult Educators Project PRO-NET. Retrieved from the World Wide Web November 21, 2009 from

National Association of State EMS Officials (2009). NASEMSO timeline for the implementation of the EMS education agenda—2009. Retrieved from the World Wide Web November 21 from  

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