Evaluation of Medical Students’ Technical Performance is Necessary to Evaluate Learning

By Heather Carnahan, Jessica Weber and Adam Dubrowski.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In order for the effectiveness of curriculum within the field of medical education to be properly assessed, methods for assessment of performance have to be refined. Performance of technical clinical skills on inanimate models is increasingly being adopted for assessment purposes in senior medical student education. In the present study, we compared the suitability of three technical skills assessment methods — previously developed in the field of surgical education — for the evaluation of technical skills learned by medical students. Twelve undergraduate medical students learned the skill of simulated wound closure (10 sutures) during a 90-minute course. After initial instructions, each student’s pre-training (pre-test) and post-training (post-test) technical performances were evaluated using a) an expert-based assessment method, b) a computer-based assessment method, and c) timing of performance variables. The results indicated that all three assessment methods were sensitive to the improvements in performance resulting from a 90-minute practice (all measures exceeding p<.05); however, because the patterns of observed improvements were different for each method, we hypothesized that the three methods evaluated different aspects of the learning process. It is proposed, therefore, that all three assessment methods be applied for optimal evaluation of the learning process and technical proficiency.

Keywords: Assessment, Suturing, Practice, Curriculum

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp.57-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 700.955KB).

Dr. Heather Carnahan

Professor, Department of Surgery, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Carnahan is currently a Professor in the Department of Surgery, and also has a cross-appointment as a Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and is a scientist at the Wilson Centre for Medical Education. Her research interests involve studying the role of sensory inputs such as touch and vision in the performance of skilled hand movements. Her clinical research involves applying current motor control and learning theory to studying the acquisition of technical clinical skills in both surgery and rehabilitation.

Jessica Weber

Student, The Wilson Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Adam Dubrowski

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Dubrowski is the Director of the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Nursing Education Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto. His interest is in the area of the role of simulation in health professions education.

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