The SPICES model of educational strategies originally published by Harden, Sowden and Dunn in Medical Education, 1984, turns 30 this year!
Far from being "over the hill" at the age of thirty, the SPICES model of educational strategies remains as relevant today as when originally published by Ronald Harden, Susette Sowden and William Dunn in 1984 (1). The six strategies it promoted are recognised as key elements of any revised undergraduate medical curriculum. The components of the SPICES acronym are: Student-centred approach to learning, Problem-based learning, Integrated or inter-professional teaching, Community-based education, with Elective studies and a Systematic or planned approach. They form the opposite end of a spectrum from a traditional curriculum characterised by a teacher-centred, information–gathering, discipline-based, hospital-based and standardised programme with opportunistic, apprenticeship-based learning. Each of the SPICES strategies are still widely accepted, actively developed and enthusiastically discussed in current publications (2) and in the proceedings of medical education conferences and courses (3). As the 1984 paper concludes, the SPICES approach can be useful not only for providing a means for reviewing an existing curriculum and developing a new one, but also for tackling specific issues within a programme, for deciding about teaching methods and for selecting assessment methods. Asking ourselves where our own teaching or our own medical school lies on the SPICES spectrum can be an interesting exercise to repeat. Each year then we can wish the SPICES paper “Many Happy Returns!
1. Harden RM, Sowden S, Dunn WR, 1984. Some educational strategies in medical education: the SPICES model. ASME Medical Education Booklet No.18. Med. Educ. 18:284-297.
2. Dent JA, 2014. Using the SPICES model to develop innovative teaching opportunities in ambulatory care venues. Korean Journal of Medical Education 26:3-7.
3. Harden RM, Laidlaw JN, 2012. Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh pp.67,68 (Chapter 11).