Open Access Research article

Using core competencies to build an evaluative framework: outcome assessment of the University of Guelph Master of Public Health program

Nicole Britten, Lauren E Wallar, Scott A McEwen and Andrew Papadopoulos*

Author Affiliations

Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:158  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-158

Published: 31 July 2014



Master of Public Health programs have been developed across Canada in response to the need for graduate-level trained professionals to work in the public health sector. The University of Guelph recently conducted a five-year outcome assessment using the Core Competencies for Public Health in Canada as an evaluative framework to determine whether graduates are receiving adequate training, and identify areas for improvement.


A curriculum map of core courses and an online survey of University of Guelph Master of Public Health graduates comprised the outcome assessment. The curriculum map was constructed by evaluating course outlines, assignments, and content to determine the extent to which the Core Competencies were covered in each course. Quantitative survey results were characterized using descriptive statistics. Qualitative survey results were analyzed to identify common themes and patterns in open-ended responses.


The University of Guelph Master of Public Health program provided a positive learning environment in which graduates gained proficiency across the Core Competencies through core and elective courses, meaningful practicums, and competent faculty. Practice-based learning environments, particularly in collaboration with public health organizations, were deemed to be beneficial to students’ learning experiences.


The Core Competencies and graduate surveys can be used to conduct a meaningful and informative outcome assessment. We encourage other Master of Public Health programs to conduct their own outcome assessments using a similar framework, and disseminate these results in order to identify best practices and strengthen the Canadian graduate public health education system.

Master of public health; Public health education; Graduate students; Program evaluation; Core competencies; Practicum; Curriculum map; Survey