Core Competencies in Forensic Anthropology: A Framework for Education, Training, and Practice

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Natalie R. Langley
MariaTeresa Tersigni-Tarrant


Forensic practice, research, and expert testimony has been scrutinized increasingly by the medicolegal system over the last several decades, requiring attention to rigor and triggering reform in the forensic sciences. One hindrance to the forensic science enterprise noted in the National Academy of Sciences report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward is fragmentation in education and training among the forensic sciences. It is crucial that practitioners receive appropriate training in their field of expertise and that education programs demonstrate the effectiveness of curricula in producing competent practitioners. This article examines a model for delineating core competencies in forensic anthropology and translating these competencies into measurable activities that characterize the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required of forensic anthropologists. We propose the model used in medical education: core competencies and Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs). We suggest EPAs that encapsulate the core competencies and allow practitioners to demonstrate that they can be trusted to perform units of professional practice unsupervised. This model emphasizes the abilities to be acquired by trainees, providing education and training programs with a set of guidelines for designing curricula and assessing learners. It also informs certification testing and credentialing in forensic anthropology. In the era of greater accountability, a competency-based model ensures that all board-certified practitioners are competent in all essential domains. The dynamic model also communicates to the medicolegal community and stakeholders the units of work produced by forensic anthropologists and our role in forensic investigations and casework.

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