GOC's open canvas task 2 - learning outcome themes

Our response to the second short GOC consultation to revise standards and learning outcomes, December 2019


The consultation

The GOC consulted on Task 2 of its 'open canvas' series of short consultations to revise its Education Standards and Learning Outcomes for education providers and optical students, as part of the wider Education Strategic Review (ESR).

The AOP's response

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is a membership organisation for optometrists and other optical professionals. We represent over 80% of the UK’s 15,000 optometrists, who are registered healthcare professionals regulated by the GOC. We also represent some Dispensing Opticians (DOs), another profession regulated by the GOC. 

We welcome the opportunity to respond to the GOC’s ESR consultation - Open Canvas for Optometrists: Task 2.

Improving the ‘open canvas’ consultation process

We welcome the transparency the GOC has introduced to the development of the Standards and Learning Outcomes (SLOs) in recent months. However, the new process of running short consultations after each Expert Advisory Group (EAG) meeting is so far leading to a lack of clarity about the ‘in-progress’ outputs and how they should be understood. Whilst the background paper published for this work was thorough, clear and provided assurance, the subsequent documents consulted on as ‘task 1’ and ‘task 2’ have been less clear. We are concerned that this will lead to respondents making potentially incorrect conjectures about how the documents should be understood - undermining the quality of the consultation process. 

The GOC should provide much clearer documentation for these consultations, which may mean running fewer rounds of higher-quality consultation. For example, the GOC should provide information about what work has been completed at each stage of consultation and why, what is left to do, and how each consultation fits into the overall SLO development process. 

The GOC should also explain how the current drafts will be mapped to knowledge, skills and behaviours modalities – as proposed in the background document – and  what process the EAG meetings are using to develop material for the SLOs. Use of an established development methodology, such as the Delphi process, would give reassurance about the approach being taken. 

The consultation hub provides no space for any general comments, and only provides space for respondents to suggest what should be added to each of the ten learning outcomes categories.  Because of the limited scope of the ‘task 2’ online consultation hub questions, we are providing this response as a stand-alone document directly to the GOC education team.

General comments on the draft learning outcomes 

Defining terminology and clarity of wording

The GOC’s background paper rightly identified the clear use of terminology and wording as important to achieving an effectively understood educational framework. We have some concerns therefore that several terms being used in the work completed so far have not been defined. The hierarchy of ‘category’, ‘element’ and ‘content’ has been used throughout the draft learning outcomes, but it is unclear how each of these is to be understood and the relationships between them. There also appears to be content missing from some elements within the ten learning outcome categories. It’s unclear from the documents provided whether this will be completed at a later EAG or is due to a lack of available content. 

Clearly the completed SLOs will need clearly agreed definitions and will need to be accompanied by explanatory material. Some level of explanation/definition is also needed for respondents to provide meaningful comments during consultation. 

Level of detail and scope of content

The GOC has stated its intention to develop SLOs which are more high-level than what we have now, and which allow for developments in future optometric practice. We support this intention; the development of a clearly defined set of high-level learning outcomes would allow other aspects of the educational framework to flow from it. However, we are concerned that the material presented in ‘task 2’ may already be too detailed for this purpose and contain unnecessary content.

We understand the reason for linking the Standards of Practice to the educational framework. However, at the moment, the Standards of Practice appear to have too much influence on the categories that have been identified.  Because of this, the ‘elements’ listed in the draft learning outcomes appear too focused on the GOC’s current regulatory framework, and not enough on what a safe beginner, equipped with the skills to adapt to evolving practice in the future, should look like. 

Categories and content that were rejected in the ‘task 1’ consultation also seem to have reappeared in the ‘task 2’ document – which could bias the scope of the learning outcomes. We have made some more comments about unnecessary and hard to understand content in the ‘task 2’ document in our comments below. 

Specific comments on the draft learning outcomes content 


The content in cells D1, E1 and D10 is not necessary.

Element ‘Multi-modal’ in cell B5, and the related content in B6, doesn’t relate only to the communication category. It would fit better in another category such as lifelong learning. 

The ‘professional conduct’ element description in cell B7, and related content, could be better described or be consolidated under another heading. The content in cell C7 could include reference to ‘translates theory into evidence-based practice’, or alternatively this should be included elsewhere. 

The content in cell D7 relates better to the element ‘breaking bad news’ in B7, and doesn’t seem to fit where it is, in the element ‘professional conduct’. 

Supporting others to develop

Elements B15-17 and B19-21 all need some further explanation for the reader. It is not apparent why some elements are listed here: ‘mentoring’, ‘teaching and assessing’, ‘supervision’ and ‘coaching’ . There is clear overlap between these, and it’s unclear whether these are focused enough on the high level outcomes expected from a safe beginner.


Element ‘EDI’ in cell B23 needs to be displayed as the full wording, not an acronym. 

Patient centred care

The content in cell G35 could also be covered by content in cell C1 under the communications category. 

Multi-disciplinary teamworking

The content in cell C44 appears to be covered in other areas - such as content in cell E36.

Ethics and standards 

Its not clear that the ‘integrity’ and ‘responsibility’ need to be included separately. 

Clinical excellence

The element in B57 ‘willingness to question’ currently has no associated content. It does not need a separate heading and could be incorporated into element B54 ‘critical appraisal and thinking’. 

Clinical leadership

The element in cell B69 ‘role model’ does not seem to fit with content in cell C69 which appears to be about raising concerns/whistleblowing – which is covered specifically in the Ethics and Standards category already. The description ‘Role model’ as an element is also an unclear description, as is element ‘professional generosity’ in cell B70 – the necessity for both should be reviewed. 

December 2019