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ACCME Criteria Review: Appropriate Formats

Whether you are an accredited provider such as i3 Health or you are an educational partner working with an accredited provider, it's still important to understand the criteria that underly continuing medical education (CME) activities. This is part of a periodic series of posts looking at what each criterion means in general and what it might mean for you.

Today we continue working through the Educational Planning and Evaluation criteria. In the previous two posts in this series, I discussed how to identify educational needs and how to describe what an activity is designed to change. Now that we know the goal of the activity, we can identify the best way to deliver an educational intervention. What is the appropriate format for the activity?

This criterion states the following:

The provider chooses educational formats for activities/interventions that are appropriate for the setting, objectives, and desired results of the activity.

Not all formats are appropriate for all activities. In the past, everything was what we now call "traditional CME." Some expert would stand at the front of the room and drone on for an hour. Hopefully those in attendance would go back to their practice and apply what they heard. Now, there are still times in which a traditional didactic format is still appropriate. If a knowledge need has been identified, then a format that includes a didactic lecture is useful. However, it's not the appropriate format for all activities, and that is why this criterion exists. We must be conscious of how we're delivering educational content and not just of what we're delivering.


  • 1.) A hands-on skills lab activity on new suturing techniques
  • 2.) A didactic lecture with small group discussions of case studies
  • 3.) A panel discussion with question-and-answer about medical ethics

Each of these formats has a participatory aspect, requiring learners to be active and not passive. However, they are all specific to the goals of the activity. The panel discussion in example 3 would not be appropriate to the topic of example 1.

As planners, we need to be conscious of the format we are selecting, and we should also be able to explain why the format is appropriate for the activity. It is a criterion that is seemingly simple but requires us to be thoughtful in our work. At the same time, it is a criterion that allows for creativity. This is where we can try new things to create better and more impactful activities.

In the next post in this series, I'll discuss how to link all of this planning into broader competencies our learners need to meet.

Other Posts in This Series 

CME Mission and Program Improvement Educational Planning and Evaluation Reference

ACCME (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at: 

Image credit: Les Chatfield. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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