New education method or tool
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HACASE: A simple and versatile framework for session design and delivery

Veronica Hollis[1][a], Kathryn Woods-Townsend[2][b], Bernadette Fernandez[1][a], Judith Holloway[1][a]

Institution: 1. MSc Allergy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, 2. Southampton Education School, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Southampton
Corresponding Author: Dr Veronica Hollis ([email protected])
Categories: Educational Strategies, Educational Theory, Learning Outcomes/Competency, Teachers/Trainers (including Faculty Development), Teaching and Learning
Published Date: 30/07/2020


We have developed a simple framework, HACASE, for session design and delivery, based on established educational principles such as constructive alignment. The HACASE framework was primarily designed for new educators, but can also be used by experienced educators. Sessions designed using HACASE can be delivered to students, colleagues, patients and their families. Its versatility and sound educational foundations make it appropriate for single sessions, through to workshops, modules and beyond.

Keywords: session design; framework; constructive alignment


Designing and delivering teaching or training is often simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Many healthcare professionals are expected to teach undergraduates and postgraduates, or train colleagues, patients and their families, with little or no formal training in providing education themselves (Hartford, Nimmon and Stenfors, 2017). This can lead to a lack of confidence in this vital aspect of their role. We have developed a simple framework to design, deliver and evaluate effective teaching or training sessions that embeds and promotes fundamental educational principles. Educational interventions that introduce these principles have been shown to enhance teaching abilities and inspire educators to extend their teaching and training activities (Foster and Laurent, 2013).

Within healthcare education in particular, it is important to introduce educational concepts in an accessible, concise and relevant way (Trumble, 2013), thereby anchoring practice to theory. Recognising this need, the simple framework we have constructed, using the acronym HACASE, captures the elements we consider essential for successful education: Hook, Aims & learning outcomes, Content, Assessment, Summary and Evaluation (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. HACASE (Hook, Aims & learning outcomes, Content, Assessment, Summary, Evaluation) framework for session design and delivery.

Although originally designed to be a simple model for educators at the beginning of their educational career, HACASE is appropriate for educators with any level of experience. It can be applied to multiple learning formats, from short sessions through to workshops, credit-bearing modules and entire degree programmes. HACASE is also applicable to a range of educational settings and learners well beyond healthcare.

H is for Hook

The framework begins with a Hook, designed to focus the learners’ attention and engage them with the subject matter (Easton, 2016). The start of any educational interaction is critical to the engagement of the learners (Exley and Dennick, 2004), so for maximum effectiveness the hook should be delivered at the very outset, even prior to introductions, where appropriate. Adult learners, in particular, need to understand the motivation for learning in order to take ownership of the process (Mukhalalati and Taylor, 2019). For example, the hook could take the form of a simple yet challenging question to the learners, or the presentation of a thought-provoking image. Coupling the hook with an initial ‘ice-breaker’ activity (Holbert, 2015), can further help to set up a supportive and proactive learning environment, in which learners are encouraged from the start to participate in the entire session.

A is for Aims and learning outcomes

Following the hook, the educator sets up the Aims and learning outcomes the learner should be able to achieve having completed the session. Learning outcomes should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) and include active verbs that cover a range of cognitive skills, as defined by Bloom’s Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002; Chatterjee and Corral, 2017). The cornerstone of an effective session is the ‘constructive alignment’ of teaching and learning activities and assessments with the learning outcomes (Biggs, 1996). By ensuring alignment between these three components (see Figure 1), learners are given ample opportunity to construct and demonstrate achievement of their learning. Sharing learning outcomes at the beginning of the session helps clarify expectations and encourages learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Although HACASE starts with the hook in terms of delivery, when designing an educational session the pivotal step is in defining the learning outcomes, to which the content and assessment can then be constructively aligned and an appropriate hook chosen.

C is for Content

The Content of the educational session includes the teaching and learning activities and resources, constructively aligned (Biggs, 1996) to allow learners to achieve the outcomes. Activities should be selected carefully and tailored to meet the needs and wants of the learners (Mills and Alexander, 2013). The mode or method of delivery should also be thought of as part of the session content, such as the use of technology-enhanced learning (Sandars et al., 2015). In choosing a variety of activities and delivery modes for the session, the educator should further aim to reinforce a safe and engaging learning environment that is appropriate for all learners (Butcher, Davies and Highton, 2006).

A is for Assessment

Assessment of learning accompanies or follows content delivery within a session and must be constructively aligned to the learning outcomes (Biggs, 1996). Too often educators state “by the end of this session you will be able to achieve these learning outcomes,” without ever determining whether that is so. However, even short sessions can include assessments, such as learner demonstration, Q&A via audience response systems or peer marking/feedback (Butcher, Davies and Highton, 2006). Selecting an appropriate method for assessment of each learning outcome is vital to ensure that learners can demonstrate their ability, whilst allowing the educator to determine whether the learners have achieved the learning outcomes.

S is for Summary

Ending a session with an effective Summary helps the learners to understand the progression of the session they have just participated in and to put into context the key take-home messages (Gullo, Ha and Cook, 2015). It serves as a final reminder for learners, helping to cement the learning in their memory (Webster, Connolly and Schempp, 2009). By including a summary as part of the HACASE framework, the educator is obliged to consider their goals in advance and to reflect in the moment on whether the session met those requirements. Asking the learners to give the summary can be a useful tool in revisiting their learning, whilst highlighting to the educator any areas that may need reinforcing.

E is for Evaluation

The final element of the framework is the Evaluation of the session, which is essential in maintaining and improving the quality of the learning experience and important for the professional development of the educator. There are numerous evaluation techniques to choose from, many of which use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods (Goldie, 2006). To encourage learners to provide rich and honest feedback, it is important they be made aware of why and how their evaluations will be used (Griffin and Cook, 2009). In particular, learners need to trust that their input will be considered by the educator, who can then further enrich the impact of the evaluation data through their own reflective practice (Kogan and Shea, 2007).


Our HACASE framework for session design and delivery (Figure 1) provides educators with a simple yet versatile tool to plan effective educational or training sessions. The framework is based on fundamental educational concepts, including constructive alignment, that promote a rich and productive learning environment. By adhering to the elements of the HACASE framework, educators at any level of experience can become more effective in their teaching. Moreover, like others (Foster and Laurent, 2013; Lipczynska and Crowley, 2015), we have observed that an awareness of the importance of these educational concepts motivates educators to challenge themselves when designing and delivering their own educational sessions. We believe this simple tool provides both new and established educators with a versatile framework that enables them to deliver excellent learning experiences, thereby inspiring them to continue on their journey as an educator with confidence.

Take Home Messages

  • HACASE is a simple framework for session design and delivery that comprises a novel combination of established educational tools and techniques.
  • Based on fundamental educational theories such as constructive alignment, HACASE enables the successful design and delivery of a teaching or training session.
  • HACASE is straightforward for novice educators to use and an understanding of its core educational strategies can inspire even long-standing educators to extend their session design and delivery.
  • The versatility of HACASE means it can be used to design and deliver sessions for a range of educational settings.

Notes On Contributors

Dr Veronica Hollis, PhD, FHEA, is a Senior Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton.

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, PhD, is a Principal Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.

Dr Bernadette Fernandez, PhD, FHEA, is a Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton.

Prof Judith Holloway, PhD, PFHEA, NTF, is a Professorial Fellow in Allergy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton.


Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Figure 1. Source: the author, created using template freely available at


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There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (

Ethics Statement

Ethical approval was not required for this article because it is not reporting research findings.

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Barbara Jennings - (18/12/2020) Panel Member Icon

Educational psychologists have been describing the science of learning that all teachers can draw on for many decades. The model proposed by the authors brought to mind Gagne’s nine-step process needed for effective learning [Gagne, R. M., Briggs, L. J., & Wager, W. W. (1992). Principles of instructional design].
Although the concepts underpinning the HECASE framework are not novel I do think the checklist of steps could be a very useful and clear way to keep research about active learning in mind for novice teachers without over-burdening them with detail.
It is important for medical educators to keep in mind that gaining a learner’s attention is an essential first step (Hollis et al.’s Hook) and the importance of alignment between Aims and Assessment and session Evaluation are routinely overlooked by new teachers (who may be overly concerned with the information aspects of Content).
Have the authors’ designed any lesson plan templates linked to their HACASE model? An evaluation of the use of such checklists within a professional development programme would be interesting.
This article would be of interest to faculty development leads, there are some useful articles cited in the bibliography and the figure 1 graphic is really helpful to the reader.

Possible Conflict of Interest:

I am an Associate Editor of MedEdPublish. However, I have posted this review as a member of the review panel and so this review represents a personal, not institutional, opinion.

Ken Masters - (03/11/2020) Panel Member Icon
A short paper on a simple and versatile framework for teaching session design and delivery.

Although the paper is a nice and quick read, I really do think that it is a brief description of almost all traditional didactic teaching that occurs around the world, anyway. In order for their model to make a contribution to medical education, the authors would really have to demonstrate how the elements of the model differ from what is normally done already, or identify currently unknown or novel ideas. (And many institutions have moved beyond this type of teaching, especially where LOs are given upfront). The question that the authors should answer is: “What does this tell us that 90% of the world’s teachers do not already know?” This model might be useful for people who have no teaching or training experience, but, beyond that, the authors need to expand on the perceived value of the model.

Perhaps, in Version 2 of the paper, the authors can expand on this.

Possible Conflict of Interest:

For transparency, I am an Associate Editor of MedEdPublish.

Felix Silwimba - (05/08/2020)
I find this education advise simple and useful. I plan to use it at my institution.
Hebat Allah A. Amin - (31/07/2020)
It's simple, yet smart.
The figure is very informative and usable. I recommend it to anyone who has online programs as a simple guide for the novice.
Possible Conflict of Interest:


mariam asaad amin ibrahim - (30/07/2020)
Very simple yet informative and to the point