Theme Day Roadmap

A guide for designing your collaborative education day

Dr. Jonathan St. George


The primary goal of the THEME DAYS is to transform the Emergency Medicine content into engaging, interactive,  high quality EM learning.  To do this we are also transforming some of our protected Wednesday conference time into an incubator for designing and developing high quality resident-driven education that meets the needs of its participants. YOU!

THEME DAYS have a deeper vision: a belief that learning can inspirational: that is should be a source of motivation for what we strive to become, and that residents and faculty alike can work together to create a way of learning that values our time by putting the process of how we become better at what we do front and center.

Your Teaching Responsibilities

Work together as a team

  • The PGY4  is expected to take the leadership role in designing the day, and is responsible for keeping the team on track. 
  • The Theme DAYS are about teamwork, shared responsibility for our collective learning, and better education through better design.

Take time to consider how to maximize the learning within whatever teaching tool you’re using.

  • The Model of Clinical Practice of EM including EM Procedure Skills is the source for content for the Theme DAYS.
  • After deciding on the topics to be covered,  a list of key learning objectives must be agreed up and then “built-in” to the Theme DAY.
  • Leave time to at the end each station or session to finish with a short summary or debrief.
  • Embedding ITE questions within or after your session
  • Consider using a Google Quiz or other audience response system before/after the session to reinforce your key learning objectives.

Use a flipped classroom model

  • Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content online for prior study, so that  the Theme DAY can focus on deepening understanding through discussion, problem solving, and other active learning activities. 
  • One week prior to your Theme DAY, flipped content should be posted or sent to all residents.
  • Develop an audience response Google Quiz based on the flipped content to assess understanding at the beginning of the Theme day.

Master your assigned content

  • The Theme DAYS are a “learn to teach, teach to learn model” Take your responsibility for teaching yourselves and your colleagues seriously by mastering your content and seeking out mentors and a broad range of resources.
  • Find a content expert you can review your learning objectives with.  This can be a faculty member or an expert from another department. This is not your Theme day mentor.  They are focused on the education design and flow.

Commit to your team meetings

  • It is each team member’s responsibility to coordinate their protected time for team meetings. 3-4 group meetings are required (see timeline below).

Participate in your Theme DAY

  • All team members are required to participate on the day of their assigned Theme DAY. If you are scheduled over your vacation or some other conflict it is your responsibility to switch days or make arrangements to be available for your team early on and notify the chiefs if there is a problem you can’t resolve.

Planning Tips

Keep the momentum going!!!

  • After the initial design challenge day in June, use all the lead time you have because waiting is never a good idea. Excellent educational content requires months of planning.

Set up an online collaborative workspace

  • Consider a google folder for shared project content
  • Consider using a GroupMe or another app to facilitate communication
  • Choose an online platform to share with your colleagues
  • Consider setting up a group chat (Whatsapp or Groupme, etc)
  • Consider scheduling regular video chats

Reach out EARLY to potential guest educators

  • Part of the Theme DAY design means inviting guest educators, from within our department and from other departments across the institution and beyond.  Reach out to them early so they can plan ahead. If they are not available it will also give you more time to find an alternative.

Use FOAM and other online resources

  • There is a large amount of FOAM and other online resources that are great for a flip the classroom model.  Do an in depth search early for high quality online resources you can repurpose to your needs. Consider having your faculty mentor review the resources with you.

Build off of previous successes

  • You do not have to reinvent the wheel every time.  Successful strategies can be reused or modified and improved to suit your needs. The Theme days are an interative process of development. 
  • Reach out to prior groups and ask them how they did it and what worked and what they would do differently.

The Suggested Timeline

  • All year 
  • Consider theme day topics


  • At 8 weeks prior to theme day
  • Pre-scheduled group meeting to solidify ideas, delineation of roles and learning objectives
  • Reach out to faculty mentors if you have not already to confirm 
  • Solidify your Flipped content and how you are are going to deliver it. 
  • The team or it’s representative presents concept outline to the education committee with presenting resident(s) taking feedback to group
  • Contact resources needed (Sim center (Dr. Ching, etc), faculty needed, actors, supplies, technology needed)
  • Submit your simulation request form
  • At 4 weeks prior to Theme day
  • Pre-scheduled group meeting to make sure team is on track,  review content, and the flow of day
  • Reaffirm key learning objectives
  • Make sure Flipped content is agreed upon and ready to post online
  • Final opportunity to contact resources needed (Sim center (Dr. Ching, etc), faculty needed, actors, supplies, technology needed)
  • After this meeting, individual team members working on their deliverables to present at next meeting
  • At 2 weeks prior to Theme day
  • Pre-scheduled group meeting 
  • Review content created
  • Confirm outside resources
  • Push out flipped content to entire resident group
  • At 1 week prior to Theme day
  • Pre-scheduled meeting (everyone asks for same time off from clinical shift) for practice run through for group, including movement of attendees, content presentations, test technology to be used
  • Be sure questions (ITE style) are included in content
  • Confirm printed material
  • Push out additional flipped learning to all residents

List of Tools and Expert Advisors

Some of the tools required to put together your Theme DAY may be new to you or you may be struggling to find the right tool for your learning goals. Below are a list ideas/tools used by prior teams or that have potential for future use.  Next to the tools are mentor/experts who have prior experience with that tool so you can ask for guidance building your educational content.  

  • Gamification (examples include)
    • EM Jeopardy 
    • Escape the Room 
    • Obstacle Course (a series of timed challenges that require individual and team skills 
  • Panel Discussion
  • Quizzes
  • Problem solving challenges
  • Debate Style
  • SIM (Naik)
  • Short Talk
  • Deliberate Practice (procedures)
  • Guest Expert(s)
  • Spoken Word/Rap  Jason Hill)
  • Narrative Medicine (Sara Zaidi)