Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.3, 281-289
Published Online June 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 281
The Epistemological Aspects of Curriculum Development and
Implementation for the Medical Laboratory Technology
Diploma in Uganda
Wilson Rwandembo Mugisha1, Christopher B. Mugimu2
1Ministry of Educat io n an d Sp orts, Param edical Schools, Kampala, Uganda
2Department of Foundatio ns and Curriculum Studies, College of Ed ucation and External Studies,
Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Email:, rwandem bo
Received March 31st, 20 1 2; revised April 29th, 2012; accepted May 12th, 2012
A study was conducted to investigate the epistemological aspects found in the curriculum, teaching,
learning and practice of Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) in Uganda. The study involved the analy-
sis of the curriculum document for the diploma in MLT implemented at Mulago Paramedical Schools
(MPS) in Kampala Uganda. It further involved getting the views of learners, educators and clinical super-
visors of the MLT diploma programme. The results of the study revealed that various epistemological as-
pects were applied during the development and implementation of the MLT curriculum as well as during
the practice of MLT in Uganda. Application of these aspects during curriculum development and imple-
mentation led to acquisition of various types of knowledge. It further led to the development of different
and appropriate ways of knowing that is necessary for the training and practice of MLT.
Keywords: Curriculum Development; Implementation; Epistemological Aspects
Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) training in Uganda
has been going on since the late 1920s. This study investigated
whether epistemological curricula issues have been applied in
the training practices and processes as well as professional
MLT practices. Epistemology refers to knowledge generation,
acquisition, and justification. The notion of epistemology is
central in curriculum development and implementation. It is
against this background that this study focused on establishing
whether the epistemological aspects of curriculum exist in the
MLT training in Uganda. This paper presents current research
on epistemology in relation to curriculum development and
implementation. We also present results to highlight how vari-
ous epistemological aspects have been applied in the curricu-
lum development and implementation processes at the school of
MLT at Mulago Paramedical Schools in Uganda. We discuss
the manner in which the different types of knowledge and ways
of knowing have been reflected in the training processes and
practices of MLT, drawing on the Ugandan experience.
The Concept of Epistemology
Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge and
knowing, and the validity of knowledge claims (Zais, 2010).
It also deals with the question of discovering the truth and
authenticity of knowledge as well as limits of knowledge. Re-
cent developments in epistemology have now shifted from the
belief that knowledge is absolute and static to the current post-
modern views, which emphasise its continuous development
and evolutionary nature. Therefore, epistemology and curricu-
lum are interrelated. Figure 1 reflects our conceptualization of
the epistemological aspects of curriculum development and im-
Curriculum contents exist in order to transmit knowledge and
to lay a foundation to facilitate knowing or meaning construc-
tion. Ornstein and Levine (1993) consider epistemology to be at
the pillar of curriculum development. Curriculum development
entails decision-making on the nature and the level of content,
level of skills, values and attitudes that learners should acquire
through education (Okello & Ocheng, 1996). Educators’ under-
standing of the various forms of knowledge and patterns of
knowing influence their decisions concerning content selection
and its organization during curriculum design and implementa-
tion. The curriculum implementation processes may include teach-
ing, learning and assessment of learning (Sowell, 2010).
Knowledge is what is perceived to be reality or truth (Higgs
& Smith, 2006; Russell, 1996). Nickols (2000a) argues that
knowledge is a mix of framed experiences, values, contextual
information, and expert insight (pp. 12-2 1). The notion of know-
ledge can be objective, observable and communicable to one
individual and likewise knowledge can be subjective, unique,
and internal to another individual. Figure 1 shows knowledge
as being explicit, implicit, tacit, procedural, declarative, strate-
gic, conceptual, logical-mathematical, physical, automatized,
semantic and social (Ein-Dor, 2008; Kikuchi & Simmons, 1992;
Ree & Urmson, 2005). The term knowledge has various uses
depending on the perspective in which it is used. From this
perspective, when discussing knowledge, it should be done in
context. The critical theory paradigm asserts that truth is cre-
ated and uncreated by human beings. In this context there is no
Figure 1.
Epistemological aspects of curriculum, development and implementa-
absolute truth. This paradig m emphasises that kno wledge should
be looked at in a democratic manner. Current reality should be
subjected to constant challenge. Phillip Ein-Dor (2008) in his
chapter on taxonomies of knowledge postulates that knowledge
is multidimensional in nature and can be perceived in different
views; therefore many taxonomies are possible. We provide a
brief description for some of the salient taxonomies of know-
ledge that may be relevant to MLT. However, we are also being
mindful of the fact that it is almost impossible to draw a con-
crete line between these various types of knowledge in a prac-
tical sense.
Explicit knowledge is formal, systematic and codified (Ni-
ckols, 2000a) usually digitized in form of documents such as
books, and reports. Thus, it is articulated in form of text that
may contain specifications and scientific formulas. In labora-
tory practice like in other areas of practice, explicit knowledge
is the most commonly used knowledge. It is used in routine
teaching and learning.
Implicit knowledge is reflected in observable behaviour or
even in performance of tasks. It can be teased out from the
individual’s performance by experts using task analysis. In
MLT practice, this can be seen as positive traits among indi-
vidual professionals as they perform their routine duties.
Tacit knowledge refers to the knowledge that people have
but is not written down. It is thus difficult to articulate and
tends to be shared through interactions, storytelling and discus-
sions with individuals having this knowledge and expertise.
Tacit knowledge is acquired as a result of individuals’ experi-
ence and some individuals may not even be aware that they
have this knowledge. The utility of tacit knowledge is not as
broad as that of explicit knowledge.
Procedural knowledge refers to understanding of how to
carryout procedures normally based on implicit memory or
long-term memory of specific skills and procedures (Nickols,
2000a). It denotes knowledge of how to complete tasks. Reber
and Reber (2001) contend that procedural knowledge is the
understanding of how to control relevant factors for examining
phenomenon, knowing methods of manipulating specific con-
ditions or the technique for implementing tasks. It is obscure,
process-oriented and it is not extendible to other uses. In MLT
practice, procedural knowledge is used while conducting labo-
ratory experiments and designing laboratory protocals.
Declarative knowledge like procedural knowledge, declara-
tive knowledge, refers to the ability to describe, interpret and
explain how to perform certain tasks (Nickols, 2000a). Declara-
tive knowledge helps learners to develop procedural knowledge.
It is easy to validate, identify, transfer, and slow to acquire as it
requires interpretation of its acqui s i tion process.
Strategic knowledge is the ability to perceive the right time
and the right reason for doing things (Nickols, 2000b). It is
used by Laboratory managers in their routine day-to-day activi-
ties as well as in planning. In clinical laboratories, strategic
knowledge is used when making decisions. It helps laboratory
professionals in identifying which operations are of emergency
nature and those that are routine.
Conceptual knowledge refers to the manner in which one
represents major concepts in a system. It explains relationships
an d understandings of a sy stem (Rittle-Johnson & Alibali, 1999).
Conceptual knowledge involves making sensory observations,
logical correlation of data, abstractions, assimilations, problem-
solving, reasonable judgement and understanding of humans.
This is related to operations at work such as making differential
diagnosis in MLT practice. It requires that one knows the facts
that are necessary for one to arrive at solutions and to make
conclusions. Logical-mathematical knowledge involves quan-
tification of observations such as counting, measuring, preci-
sion and accurate communicating of facts (Ree & Urmson,
2005). It is the ability to think about objects or variables and
existing relationships between them. Logical-mathematical
knowledge also entails the ability to demonstrate problem-
solving skills, good understanding of critical issues and sketch-
ing out the way forward in deciding what steps to take. It is
mainly applied in experimental and quantitative research. It is
used in the preparation of reagents, analysis of physiological
samples, in interpretation of results and in communicating re-
sults of the analyses.
Physical knowledge refers to ability to demonstrate a clear
understanding of the physical properties of objects or events.
Lovat (2004) argues that physical knowledge is a good under-
standing of facts and features such as size, shape, texture,
weight, volume, and dimensions. It enhances understanding of
phenomena and predicting emerging phenomena. In MLT,
physical knowledge is used in describing properties of equip-
ment and instruments, characteristics of chemicals, drugs, re-
agents, and clinical laboratory features of diseases and condi-
tions. It is also used in describing features of biological materi-
als and their components such as body cells, tissues and organs.
Automatized knowledge is the knowledge that involves con-
struction and understanding of concepts and analysing issues. It
is acquired without necessarily using rote memory (Wadsworth,
1989). It is used in MLT when new discoveries, trends, proce-
dures and approaches get established.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Semantic knowledge refers to highly organised knowledge
found in long-term memory and includes major concepts, vo-
cabulary, facts and relationships (Ree & Urmson, 2005; Wads-
worth, 1989). In MLT semantic knowledge is applied when
results of analyses of patient’s samples are compared with the
results of known standards. It is also applied in new terms,
concepts and facts that are established and integrated into rou-
tine professional use.
Practical-technical knowledge refers to what people know
and can do (Clancey, 1997). It includes the understanding of the
structure of work activities in organizations. It is the knowledge
that individual use when deciding to take some action basing on
their beliefs and values. Practical-technical knowledge is
learned on the job through experience and adaptation to the
working environment. The technical knowledge includes the
ability to demonstrate the expertise while performing the tasks
(de Vries, 2003; Lovat, Holbrook, Bourke, Dally, & Morrison,
2003). It requires technical analytical skills. It helps laboratory
managers to relate with different laboratory departments and
hospitals in general.
Social knowledge involves the enhancement of cultural or
social groups to come to agree by convention. It is based on the
belief that knowledge can be acquired through social interaction
especially when people engage into dialogue, conversation,
copying, practicing, having feelings and establishing connec-
tions and relationships with others. Social knowledge is there-
fore socially mediated and is community bound. It promotes
shared meaning and creation of new knowledge as a result of
agreement between people of different backgrounds. Profe-
ssions are in themselves specialised communities or societies.
The senior professionals influence the young ones who copy
good practices as they grow into the profession.
Figure 1 shows that, curriculum content provides a founda-
tion for the acquisitions of various forms of knowledge and that
through internalization and experiences based on the curricu-
lum implementation processes and strategies, an individual is
able to undergo a state of knowing or constructing their own
The notion of knowing refers to one’s ability to construct
meaning as a result of internalization and experiences (see Fig-
ure 1). It involves internal mental cognitive changes within the
individual as a result of learning. Knowing emerges through
various forms such as empirical-analytical, interpretive-her-
meneutical, self-awareness, ethical, self-reflective, and aesthe-
tic. Higgs and Smith (2006) argue that empirical-analytical
perspective assumes that knowing is acquired after observation
and documentation of situations in an objective and timely
manner. It is objective, abstract and provides theoretical expla-
nations for phenomena (Kikuchi & Simmons, 1992). It entails
acquisition of factual subject matter in the natural sciences,
biological sciences and human sciences. This way of knowing
is of particular importance in the health sciences in general,
including the medical laboratory sciences. Empirical knowing
informs health professionals in their scientific decisions,
choices, and practices.
On the other hand, the interpretive-hermeneutic perspective
emphasises that knowing is acquired through self-discovery of
the learner. It assumes that it is humans who create knowledge
and understanding; therefore, it is based on knowing of what
has been created by human beings. Furthermore, it entails hav-
ing constructed meanings through the processes of critical in-
terpretation of issues or personal experiences, which often in-
volves interpersonal dialogue. As such, through dialogue indi-
viduals attain insights to convey the underlying meanings that
are inherent in what was studied or experienced (Higgs &
Smith, 2006). Indeed through practices of professionals new
meanings emerge thus acquiring interpretive-hermeneutic ways
of knowing.
The concept of knowing is also linked to moral issues to be
transmitted to learners (Kikuchi & Simmons, 1994). The ethi-
cal perspective assumes that individuals acquire knowledge to
enable them make moral decisions. It is concerned with ques-
tions on what is good, valuable and desirable in society. The
ethical way of knowing entails developing ethical decision-
making skills and ability to resolve ethical dilemmas. The
moral decisions are made as informed choices in accordance
with societal or professional norms and values. To obtain ethi-
cal knowledge, it is necessary to study content that is related to
morality, professional ethical codes, legislation and human
rights. Individuals with ethical knowledge act professionally
and responsibly and become ethically and morally accountable
for their actions. Ethical practice entails demonstrating will-
ingness to doing the right and responsible things and in accor-
dance with the value system of the health professions (Kikuchi
& Simmons, 1994).
Kikuchi and Simmons (1994) argue that personal way of
knowing refers to achieving self-awareness and knowing one-
self, thus, the individual gains self-consciousness. Self-con-
sciousness allows one to discover oneself and to know one’s
own strength and weaknesses. Self-consciousness is acquired
through participation in self-awareness and self-evaluation
activities (Engebretson, 1997; Lovat, 2004). This way of know-
ing is gained through exposure to content and learning experi-
ences through which learners can discover their preconceived
ideas, attitudes and fears. People who possess self-conscious-
ness/self-knowledge are better able to relate with other people.
Thus, educational institutions should develop among learners
an understanding of self and others in order to make them de-
velop practical ways of knowing.
In MLT education and practice, personal way of knowing is
acquired by learners and professionals in the process of receiv-
ing feedback of their individual contributions, as they work
with colleagues on joint project. The process also applies as
they get the feedback out of their participation in meetings,
seminars and conferences.
The aesthetical perspective assumes that knowing entails
synthesis of acquired knowledge and establishing relationships
in general. The knowledge in this case is intuitive, contextual
and subjective. It enables an individual to intuitively grasp the
meanings inherent in particular clinical situations, and to crea-
tively contribute towards transforming the situation.
Another perspective of knowing is the personal way of
knowing. The aesthetical perspective assumes that knowing
entails synthesis of acquired knowledge and establishing rela-
tionships in general. The knowledge in this case is intuitive,
contextual and subjective. It enables an individual to intuitively
grasp the meanings inherent in particular clinical situations, and
to creatively contribute towards transforming the situation.
Thomasson (2005) contends that aesthetic knowing is char-
acterised by empathetic awareness and morality in interpersonal
relationships, emphasizing humanity and dignity. It is required
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 283
for healthcare professionals in order for them to effectively
practice the art of their professions. Learners acquire aesthetic
knowledge when they participate in activities, which need a
combination of knowledge, experience, intuition and under-
standing (Chinn & Kramer, 1999). This is the corner stone of
the ethical code of conduct practiced in health care delivery of
which MLT practice is part and parcel.
Self-reflective perspective of knowing assumes that knowing
is emancipatory in the sense that one will have appraised the
adequacy of information and evaluated its meaning for oneself.
It entails having moved beyond the conceptual and semantic
product level of the human mind by understanding the universal
patterns underlying what has been taught. Self-reflective in-
volves the critique of ideological “truth” as presented by domi-
nant forces in society. And by doing so, it enhances the ability
to challenge the status quo and acts as an agent of change in the
interest of a more just dispensation (Lovat et al., 2003).
The study utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Available documents on MLT training and practices were gath-
ered and analyzed for curriculum objectives, implementation
strategies, and teaching methods. This document analysis was
conducted using structured observational checklists in order to
compare the curriculum intentions, content, and strategies in the
curriculum documents. The checklists contained standard de-
scription of the expected status. This was done in reference to
the characteristics of various types of knowledge and knowing
that existed in literature and was relevant to MLT training and
practice. The observations were categorized, described, quanti-
fied, and recorded.
The survey questionnaires were also developed and self-ad-
ministered to different key stakeholders including learners,
educators and supervisors. Each of the survey questionnaire
consisted of 34 closed-ended questions. The questionnaires
probed for views of stakeholders regarding the types of knowl-
edge and knowing that learners encountered/developed as a
result of curriculum implementation processes. The question-
naires were filled and returned. The responses were analyzed
and recorded. The study used 10 educators (100%) (both full-
time and part-time) on the MLT because they are few and
highly specialized in their subjects, 30 clinical supervisors
(100%) who were involved in the supervision of the MLT stu-
dents during practicum attachment as well as individual
learner’s projects and 63 learners (64%) were randomly se-
lected. The learner’s eligibility for inclusion in the study was
such that one should have completed one year of study at the
institution and was not yet in the specialized part of the pro-
gram. Two successive groups of learners at the MPS were in-
Focus group discussions for learners, educators and clinical
supervisors were conducted using semi-structured open-ended
interview guides comprised of 25 questions. For purposes of
triangulation, separate focus groups for educators, clinical su-
pervisors and learners were conducted. Focus group discussions
were conducted using 10 learners and 10 clinical supervisors
randomly selected and all the 10 educators participated. The
focus group discussions lasted between one and half hours and
two hours each. The aim of focus group discussions was to get
verbatim responses and explanations of the written responses.
A check list of issues to be covered during the focus group
interview was developed based on issues which had been inves-
tigated in curriculum document analysis and the questionnaire
Results from Curriculum Document Analysis
and Interpretation
The study found that the MLT curriculum focused on acqui-
sition of various types of knowledge reflected in Table 1. It is
clearly shown that curriculum content provided for the critical
types of knowledge required for the modest learning and prac-
tice o f MLT program.
Results on Types of Knowing
The analysis of implementation strategies, observations, and
purposes of a particular curriculum area based on the curricu-
lum documents are presented in Table 2. From Table 2, it is
clear that the curriculum implementation process had appropri-
ate strategies to make learners acquire different ways of know-
ing. These strategies in addition assessed the acquisition of the
ways of knowing.
Results of th e Que st ionnaire Survey
The results in the Table 3 show that most of the items tested
had compliance at 100 percent, even for the item which ranked
low had a high percentage of 90. Table 3 results also indicate
that the curriculum was epistemologically relevant because it
followed established principles of curriculum development and
development of content.
They further show that professional issues were considered
as a relevant curriculum antecedent. The results in Table 4
indicate that most of the tested items showed high compliance
between 82 and 100 percent. Table 5 shows that there was a
reliable assessment process which was recommended at the
design stage and followed during the curriculum implementa-
tion. The educators and clinical supervisors as a category of
respondents rated the following assessment recommendations at
90 percent. It further shows that the assessment process had
institutional administrative support. The respondents rated it at
100 percent. Epistemologically assessment is an important
component of curriculum because it checks to establish whether
teaching led to acquisition of knowledge and knowing.
Results of the Focus Group D iscuss ion
The educators during focus group discussions described dif-
ferent health facilities where they sent their learners for attach-
ment to acquire the different types of knowledge and knowing.
Educators also revealed that the health care organization struc-
ture in Uganda helps them in making learners acquire necessary
knowledge and knowing needed for practice at each level of
health care delivery thus making training relevant. The quota-
tions that follow indicate opinions of respondents:
The structure of the Health Care System in Uganda makes it
easy to relevantly attach learners. The procedures and equip-
ment increases in complexity as one goes up in the structure.
(Educator 1)
The caliber of clinical supervisors and the quality of learning
can be predicated depending of the level of the health facility.
(Educator 2)
As indicated in the quotations above, it is quite clear that
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 285
Table 1.
Shows types of knowledge as analysed from different documents.
Type of knowledge Observatio ns Documents analysed
Explicit knowle dge Content for making learners know how to use formulae an d
writing reports. MLT Curriculum document (2006)
Implicit kn ow ledge In practical attachment senior professionals record unique
potential of each learner. Learners pra ctical attachment books/log books (2006)
Procedural knowledge Laboratory attachmen ts o f learners was planned to develop
the practical skills and experience of learners.
Curriculum document (2006),
Learners’ practical record books (Log books),
Standard laboratory operation procedure manuals (2002)
Social knowledge
The content had ethical pro f essional, skills development,
social and community issues.
Learners also participated in community activities while
conducting surveillance of diseases a nd blood donor
Curriculum, log books (2006)
Standard operation Procedure manuals (2002)
Strategic knowledge Curriculum content contained management instructions Curriculum document (2006)
Conceptual knowledge
Implementation strategies aimed at making learners analyse
and interpret results of laboratory analyses.
Individual Learner projects allowed them to generate ideas
and critique the existin g on es.
Curriculum document (2006)
Practical-technical knowledge
The learners rotated in labor atories where different new
laboratory procedures were a pp li ed in diagno s i s of current
syndromes like AIDS.
The learne r s were also rotated in specialised laboratories
where modern diagnostic procedures Polymerase Cha i n
Reaction (PC R) procedures were u sed for diagnosis and
confirm ation of various pathogens including HI V.
Curriculum, learners’ practical record books
(Log books) (2006)
Table 2.
Shows strategies, evidence/observations and purposes of the strateg ies.
Curriculum area Strategy Observations Purpose
Assessme nt of learning Assessme nt of learning Done by se eing learners carry out of
experiments. To assess ac quisition of em pirical and
aesthetical ways of knowing.
Impleme ntation process Development of analytical and
decision m aking skills
Learners allowed to make decisions during
analysis and reporting of results of samples
from patients. Acquisition of ethical knowing.
Impleme ntation process Learners were made to work with
colleagues o n study proj ects and
carry out individual pr ojects
Learners compare with their colleagues and
rate themselves. Acquisition of social and personal
ways of knowing.
Impleme ntation process Learners’ are attachment to
practicum sites
Learners a ppl y learnt knowledge in different
contexts, a broad environment, interface with
and get supervised by experts.
Acquire de eper unders tanding and develop
new meaning.
Acquisition of separate, connected,
ethical, social, aesthetical and critical
(self-reflective) ways of knowing.
Development of aesthetical and
interpretive-hermeneutical ways of
Table 3.
Shows how established curriculum principles were followed curriculum.
Items for established curriculum
development pri n c iple No of statements
per item Full compliance
% Partially
comply % Cumulative
compliance % Does not
comply % Total
Following curriculum d es i gn p rinciples 7 86 14 100 00 100
Following principals lea di n g to ca reer path 20 85 5 90 10 100
Developing relevant Curriculum content 34 76 24 100 00 100
Table 4.
Shows compliance to various curriculum strategies/facilities.
Strategy No of statementsFull compliance
% Partial
compliance %Cumulative
compliance % No compliance Total %
Using out comes that lead to skills development 25 80 20 100 00 100
Applying established educational Strategies 11 73 9 82 18 100
Using existing facilities clinical exposure 12 100 00 100 00 100
Table 5.
Shows percentage compliance of the administration to curriculum recommendations.
Complies Partially complies Total compliance Does not comply Total
n % n % n % n % n %
Assessment process 26 85 1 5 27 90 3 10 30 100
Assessment administrative support 26 86 4 14 30 100 00 0 30 100
Note: n = Number of respondents.
educators were greatly concerned about the quality of training
they provide to their students. In fact, during focus group dis-
cussions educators, however, indicated their dissatisfaction of
the fact that technological advances were too frequent to cope
with. They were also in total agreement with the clinical super-
visors’ view that some of the equipment found in clinical areas
is yet to be captured by the official curriculum. Knowledge on
how to prepare learners to learn from the equipment was a
challenge to classroom teachers. This is reflected in the quota-
tions obtained from respondents in focus groups:
It often catches us by surprise, when we find new models of
equipment in our clinical area. Learners in such cases will not
have been adequately prepared for the attachment. (Educator
I have learnt through experience that clinical practice is al-
ways ahead of teaching as far as innovations in equipment and
procedures are concerned. This is why learners should be
taught when they are on attachment. (Supervisor 1)
Learners, during the focus group discussions also indicated
that their daily routines in work places were not exactly the
same as conceived while in theoretical class teaching. Most of
the learners in focus groups felt that it was the responsibility of
their teachers to prepare them for such experiences. This is
reflected in the following quotations:
When we go for our practicum in various clinical areas we
need to have relevant knowledge. At each level of attachment,
we can be able to appreciate the relevancy of our attachment
experiences. (Supervisor 2)
So far, I have felt very comfortable during my last practicum
because I have realized that I had the relevant content, know-
ledge, and skills I needed in the field. (Supervisor 3)
The focus groups of educators revealed that they thought that
relevant curriculum content and appropriate teaching methods
were being used at SMLT. This is reflected in the quotations
that follow:
We use many approaches during the implementation of the
MLT curriculum. For instance, the teaching of theoretical con-
tent involves lecturing, and we also encourage students dis-
cussion with moderation of educators. The laboratory teaching
includes demonstration of procedures to learners. It further
involves supervision and moderation of class experiments.
(Educator 4)
This means that the implementation of the MLT curriculum
ensured acquisition of various forms of knowledge and differ-
ent ways of knowing as a result of using a variety of teaching
approaches and procedures.
On a day-to-day basis clinical supervisors see how learners
communicate with patients, and how they handle them (pa-
tients). The supervisors interact with and oversee the learners
as they handle samples, equipment, chemicals, reagents and
supplies. As an educator, I cannot dare to examine any learner
who does not have a certificate of due performance. (Educator
5) Educators, from this quotation emphasize the practical rele-
vancy of the MLT practice. Curriculum implementation is
shared between educators and clinical supervisors. Both parties
demonstrated trust in each other’s role. Educators seem to sug-
gest that attachment experience is an important component of
the MLT training and it is indispensable. Educators also felt
that the due performance of learners during clinical attachment
was extremely important in determining their professionalism
and was a good way to demonstrate application of theory to
practice. This is reflected in the following quotations:
It is through the performance of individual learners in prac-
ticum sites that shows what kind of professional the learner is
likely to be. (Supervisor 2) This means that MLT training led to
the development of skills as a result of continuous supervised
practice of learners in practicum sites.
Unless one has a certificate of due performance endorsed by
clinical supervisors, one does not get registered for semester
examinations. (Supervisor 3)
Passing can only be granted when one passes practical ex-
aminations. (Supervisor 1)
This suggests that there is a common understanding between
the educators, supervisors and learners about the importance of
skills development as part of MLT training.
In summary, all focus groups were in agreement that:
The MLT diploma curriculum had relevant theoretical con-
There was application of a variety of teaching methods
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
during curriculum implementation which enhanced devel-
opment of different ways of knowing;
That clinical attachments followed theoretical teaching and
classroom laboratory experiments which facilitated devel-
opment of connected knowing;
Learning in the clinical attachment was guided and super-
vised by senior MLT professionals which leads to devel-
opment of separate knowing.
In the practicum attachment, learning involved interactions
between learners and supervisors. This led to the development
of separate knowing. Focus groups also indicated that progres-
sive and final semester course assessments emphasized per-
formance on both theory and practical skills, which facilitated
the development of Empirical-analytical, Interpretative-her-
meneutical, Self-reflective (critical), aesthetical and ethical ways
of knowing. This type of training orients students to a variety of
knowledge strategies and experiences that sets them apart as
solid future professionals and competent products of the MLT.
Professionals are advised to analyze the types of knowledge
applicable to their professional practice in order to improve the
training and practice in their subject discipline. Professionals’
character and practices are influenced by the different types of
knowledge and the nature of knowing they have experienced.
People may not know what type of knowledge they have and
how it influences their behavior. They may also not know the
type of knowledge they lack and the effect it has on their output.
It is therefore important for professionals to know the different
types of knowledge that exist and how they can be applied.
Curricula for developing professionals who are responsible for
delivery of health care should be analyzed to find out if it is
able to make learners acquire the relevant types of knowledge
and knowing required for developing balanced and competent
professionals. This is what will help future professionals to
understand the rapidly developing and changing knowledge and
associated phenomena in this dynamic world.
Teaching the MLT diploma theoretical curriculum content
exposed learners to appropriate concepts, vocabulary and facts.
It further helped them to internalize the relationships that exist
within the different subject discipline. The MLT diploma cur-
riculum implementation was also found to be consistent with
the manner in which explicit knowledge is taught as described
in literature (Nickols, 2000a).
As part of learning, learners carried out experiments. This
exposed them to various skills such as the use of variables,
quantification of observations and making deductions and
analyses of the relationships between variables. It also led them
to making measurements and communicating results of analy-
ses and interpretations of experimental observations. This is in
line with approaches of acquiring implicit knowledge as dis-
cussed by Nickols (2000). This is also in the context of declara-
tive knowledge, logical mathematics knowledge and empiri-
cal-analytical knowing as expressed by several authors (Lovat
et al., 2003). In laboratories, declarative knowledge is used
during the reading, analysis and interpreting of results of ex-
Furthermore, learners as they performed experiments were
observed by experts who made record of the unique qualities
exhibited by each learner. This was in the content of developing
explicit knowledge Nickols (2000). In laboratory practice it is
important to critically observe professional behavior and prac-
tice of individuals in order to detect and articulate not only their
implicit knowledge but also tacit knowledge in order to use it in
improving practices and behavior of other professionals. More
often than not, this type of knowledge goes unnoticed and yet it
needs to be noticed and used to benefit humanity. This study
revealed that the design and implementation processes of the
MLT diploma curriculum had provisions for assessing and
documenting aspects of explicit knowledge exhibited in the
performance of learners. This was also endorsed by the focus
group as indicated in the following quotation that: The learners
log books allow one to document the novel qualities and pat-
terns in their performance of procedures. I have now come to
know that learners bring out some new things without being
cautious of them. One needs to be extremely observant as
learners perform their routines during their practicum attach-
ment. (Supervisor 6)
From the above quotation, it is clear that the curriculum im-
plementation made learners to know properties, maintenance
and procedures for using various laboratory equipment and
instruments. This facilitated learners to read, analyze and inter-
pret readings of the observations made from the equipment and
instruments. This enabled them learn how to professionally
handle the equipment and strategically plan for their regular
purchase and maintenance. This in incense was the develop-
ment of the procedural, tacit and physical knowledge types.
Continuous application of procedures leads to development of
procedural knowledge. Procedural Knowledge is indeed most
prevalent in this era where many new methods, new equipment
and new approaches are on the increase. The design and im-
plementation strategies of the MLT curriculum offered provi-
sions for development and assessment of acquisition of these
types of knowledge.
Implementation of practical attachment and inclusion of the
professional content on ethics in the MLT diploma curriculum
led to the teaching of social and practical knowledge. The
learners interacted with each other and senior professionals,
developed new meanings as a result of sharing and agreeing on
the meanings, in this process new knowledge emerges. The
shared agreement brings about new rules, laws, morals, values,
ethics, and language systems. This allows further opportunities
for new knowledge to emerge.
The teaching of social and practical knowledge entrenches
the professional and ethical culture which is a basis of profes-
sional development and growth. Practical attachment further
leads individuals in acquiring the practical know-how of fol-
lowing performance procedures of tasks. During practicum
attachments, the curriculum provides opportunities for studying
of the laboratory ethical code of conduct, make linkages that
exist within health services and collaboration of data from
laboratory analyses. This helped learners to acquire vital con-
cepts within the MLT subject discipline and relationships that
exist between MLT practice and other health sciences. This
way the MLT diploma curriculum and its implementation en-
abled learners acquire automatized knowledge. This leads to
development of major concept, new vocabulary, facts and dis-
covering new relationships. Furthermore, learners also learn to
be thoughtful, reflective and analytical about existing relation-
ships in the systems in which they practice in order to under-
stand the systems clearly and develop appropriate concepts.
This helps them to make appropriate judgment and choices of
action from the existing options. By providing these types of
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 287
knowledge, the MLT diploma curriculum taught learners how
to construct knowledge.
The findings of this study also revealed that laboratory train-
ing in the practicum sites involves learning how to meet daily
and periodic targets. We also found that the practicum sites
training aims at making learners internalize the strategic focus
of MLT practice in the Health Care System. This learning
therefore gave learners strategic knowledge. In one of focus
groups, indicated that “It became evident that learners were
making strategic requisition of supplies, planning their work
well ahead of time. While discussing with them, it became clear
that they were developing a forward looking approach in the
work.” (Supervisor 6)
MLT curriculum thus ensured that the teaching of various
subject disciplines was comprehensive and hence practice of
the MLT was consistent with established literature to the effect
that strategic knowledge is about knowing right time and the
right reason for doing things (Nickols, 2000).
The findings of this study also revealed that MLT curriculum
focused on teaching essentially the knowledge of principles,
steps, rationale and interpretation of results of analyses per-
formed during routine laboratory practice. Implying that MLT
teaching in this respect, gives learners mainly declarative
knowledge. A curriculum that fosters acquisition of declarative
knowledge is consistent with Nickols’ (2000) view. Further-
more, declarative knowledge is about following procedures,
using high quality data and making interpretations. This type of
knowledge is essential in the common practice of MLT. App-
lying basic principles is important in ethical practice as well as
in practicing scientific skills. All developments in science and
technology are based on the knowledge of basic principles.
Knowing the necessary steps and principles of carrying out
analyses, on the other hand, is consistent with development of
procedural knowledge and knowing as described in literature
(De Vries, 1994; Reber & Reber, 2001). Having knowledge to
interpret results of analysis is in conformity that learners ac-
quire the interpretative-hermeneutical way of knowing at MLT,
which is part of Haberma’s ways of knowing discussed in lit-
erature (Higgs & Smith, 2005).
From the results of the focus group discussions with educa-
tors and supervisors, it was clear that the practical part of MLT
curriculum was being implemented at different levels of the
health care system. The health care system is designed in such a
way that the higher one goes in the system the more one meets
complex approaches to health care delivery. Learners were
attached at each level for a specified period. This helped learn-
ers acquire different types of knowledge and knowing. This was
consistent with the focus group responses reflected in the quo-
tations that follow: Learners at different levels of their learning
require different facilities for their practicum attachment. It
takes deliberate effort to prepare learners for different levels of
practicum attachment. It requires different scopes of knowledge
and understanding. (Educator 8)
Mentoring senior learners is comparatively easy. You can
see them progressively getting closer to you in performance.
One can confidently delegate some functions to them at differ-
ent levels of the health care system. Senior students in their
final year of study can safely man sections of the clinical labo-
ratories, (Supervisor 7) From these quotations, it is clear that as
learners progress in the training, they gain proficiency and sen-
ior professionals progressively trust them.
Learner focus groups revealed that when they worked in
practicum sites they developed better understanding of the
learnt knowledge. They in addition appreciated the fact that
practicum sites were not all alike. This broadened their knowl-
edge and knowing. This is reflected in the quotation that fol-
lows: In practice some situations look different from the way
they are taught in theory. If one misses practicum attachment,
one cannot easily comprehend MLT knowledge and practice.
All the knowledge is rooted in the practice in clinical areas.
(Learner 3)
From the results of this study and the discussions in the pre-
vious section it is clear that different types of knowledge con-
tribute to development of MLT professionals. The MLT di-
ploma curriculum provided a supportive environment for ac-
quisition of various types of knowledge and knowing in order
to make learners develop the required attributes through their
educational experiences. The curriculum therefore catered for
the relevant epistemological issues of MLT training and educa-
tion. It is evident that the curriculum was ideal for development
of quality competent MLT professionals. What comes out
clearly is the fact that a good understanding of relevant and
appropriate curriculum content as well as curriculum imple-
mentation processes is critical on the part of educators to ensure
the quality of their products.
1) As different professional training programs aim at provid-
ing different traits in learners, it is important that educators
attempt to study and know the types of knowledge and knowing
that may lead to the development of the needed traits;
2) Educators need to evaluate their curricula in order to as-
certain whether their design and implementation have provi-
sions to make learners acquire knowledge and knowing.
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