Student Centered and Patient Centered Critical Thinking Healthcare Ethiopia


This post is on our recent collaboration with Mekelle University Health Sciences. The facilitation of the week training was a collaboration with my colleagues of six + years Atsede Teshayou and Dagim Melese. The key contacts with Mekelle University were Vice Provost Dr. Loko and Dagim Ali who was the coordinating project manager for the university. They are both extraordinary to collaborate with.

Thinking Design Healthcare Ethiopia is a systems approach that uses practical research based methods to assure a healthy organization that supports and grows effective communication with and between leadership and the whole organization. It uses tools that thoughtfully and effectively communicate ideas within and outside organization to create collaborations. See online previous collaborations including with St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College and Hospital in Ethiopia.


The goal of the Thinking Designs collaboration with Mekelle University Health Sciences departments is to integrate a patient centered (hospital and clinical) and student centered (medical college) approach throughout the university and hospital. The goals include supporting the universities vision of becoming a top 25 university of health sciences in the continent of Africa, and creating an environment of critical thinking medical professionals, staff and students to improve their successes within the healthcare field.

General Training

The initial Thinking Designs training included:

  • Training all Heads of Departments and other key university and hospital people (2 days)
  • Training further staff with Heads of Departments and other key people supporting in a Trainer of Trainer capacity (2 days)
  • Demonstration lessons with students by the Thinking Designs facilitator trainers (1 day)

The training is conducted in a participant centered approach which mirrors and models the goals of a implementing and sustaining a patient centered (hospital and clinical) and student centered approach (medical college) across all of health sciences.

The first two days of trainings were with the Heads of Departments and staff who are selected to be Trainer of Trainers. The third and fourth day of trainings had the Heads of Departments and Trainer of Trainers leading staff members as the leaders of Thinking Design. The goal is to model the transfer of understanding the Thinking Designs pedagogy into sustainable mastery of doing. The fifth day was to model the importance of observing our practice as educators with a focus on pedagogy, the art of teaching to maximize understanding learning across all content areas and disciplines

The participants were professional, very involved, reflective, and deeply involved in the idea and ideal of going from a ‘teacher centered’ / ‘doctor centered’ approach to deeply understanding the theory and practical with hands on experiences with a student centered / patient centered approach. The training focused on learning and integrating the essential elements of the implementation:

  • questioning for inquiry
  • collaborative methods including community building exercises; collaborative learning methods; collegial coaching
  • visual tools for organizing and understanding thinking of self and with others
  • dispositions for developing our strengths and areas to improve
  • creating a thinking environment

In addition to learning the methods in the trainings, in multiple conversations later in the week, participants were already implementing methods within their classrooms during the week of training. An example was Dr. Dawit who shared that he was using multiple methods, and it had him rethinking his curriculum with 40% less slides and more student centered dialogue, learning and critical thinking.

The staff including the Heads of Departments to all other participants were enthusiastic, involved, thoughtful in their questions and observations, developmental in their understanding the models and implementation.

Heads of Departments Leadership

The hands on interest, involvement and implementation in practices is extraordinary with the Heads of the Departments. Simply, I am moved by the professionalism, the passion, the openness of dialogue and the potential with this extraordinary leadership. It is a privilege to be collaborating for me. Your staff has the gifts and is a gift to all people across the Tigray region, and the greater country. Thank you.

Recommendations for Research

It is recommended to develop an action research model within the Health Sciences in collaboration with the Pedagogy Department to guide, understand and lead belief and practice change. Initially Thinking Designs trainers can support guiding and implementation.

Recommendations for Student Skill Classes and Trainings

These classes, ultimately student driven and taught will provide a ‘tools’ class for the different pedagogy methods and practices of Thinking Design. Initially Thinking Designs trainers can support guiding and implementation.

Recommendations for Thinking Designs Ongoing Support

Recommended support includes the Thinking Design county trainers regularly support staff. For the first year it is recommended 2 visits of 2 days each every month for coaching, professional development and implementation of all aspects of Thinking Designs in support of the universities plans and goals.

Additionally the International trainer regularly in contact through skype with mini professional development sessions, and several on site visits for further professional development through the first year of implementation.

Recommendations for Direct Integration into the Curriculum

The pedagogy practices would be directly written into the curriculum modeling the regular use of the methods and developing the student centered and patient centered approaches across all disciplines.

Levels of Implementation

  • Introductory Level — The initial training and modeling of implementation
  • Emergent Level — Participants regularly trying multiple methods in the classrooms and in clinical practice
  • Integrative Level — Departments clearly writing Thinking Designs into classroom curriculum and clinical practices
  • Sustaining Level — Mastery of Thinking Designs methods in an integrative manner, across all disciplines and at a systems level with the whole organization (as leadership tools leading the way in conjunction with grass roots implementation).

The above unedited video is from the final reflections of the week long training. Languages spoken include Tigrinya, Amharic and English.


It is recommended that Mekelle University Health Sciences in collaboration with the Pedagogy department have a goal of becoming a Thinking Designs Ethiopia training facility, professional development support and the accrediting institution across Ethiopia.


I would recommend an advisory group that includes leadership, students, staff and others involved in the community.

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