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May 30, 2013


John Norcini and Danette McKinley evaluated the methodologies and strategies used to assess medical students in the course of their studies. This was undertaken in their paper titled “Assessment Methods in Medical Education” that was published in the journal “Teaching and teacher Education” in the year 2007. In their literature review section, the paper identifies and scrutinizes the various methods that have been used for the purposes of evaluating medical students since the 1950’s which is a good starting point (Norcini & McKinley, 2007). In spite of the fact that the authors are examining contemporary issues, a detailed and elaborate account of the history of the issue assists the reader, including amateur readers, to know and understand the issue better.I feel that the author has adequately addressed the issue of Multiple Choice questions by highlighting their advantages and disadvantages. These are associated with consistency as far as the difficulty of the examination is concerned and thus they form an ideal tool for evaluating the knowledge of medical students regardless of the time and place where they are administered. Even though MCQs are often designed to be objective, their primary disadvantage is that they are often used to asses knowledge only and students can always memorize MCQ responses through rote learning.

Even though the written tests and performance-based tests were both able to demonstrate commendable training effects, they ostensibly measured different elements or aspects: Perfor-mance (‘shows how’) and knowledge (‘knows’), this is with regards to millers terminology. That is performance based testing requires students to demonstrate skills and knowledge, including the processes that they use to solve problems. On the other hand, knowledge based testing is testing to the lowest denominator. Knowledge, perhaps useful as a predictor of performance when generalized over a broad domain, resulted in being a poor predictor of performance for specific technical skills. For assess- ment of mastery of specific technical clinical skills a per- formance-based test is preferably used, and both check- lists and rating scales seem suitable. According to the authors, the knowledge based assessment has the main disadvantage of knowledge based testing is that it does not give the evaluators a good assessment of the students ability and skills.

Direct Observation of Procedural Skills is yet another assessment tool that is widely used for the purposes of evaluating medical students and which has not been well evaluated. However, it has been demonstrated that the results of students that have been subjected to this test improve with training. Essentially, the more the training given to a student, the better he/she performs in the test. Studies have demonstrated that between four and eight sessions are required for the assessment to be deemed complete although bodies governing medical education determine standards.

In conclusion, some of the methods that are used for the evaluation of medical students include Direct Observation of Procedural Skills, performance-based assessment, knowledge-based assessment and Multiple Choice questions. I think that the author has addressed the issues concerning these methods adequately by highlighting their advantages, disadvantages as well as weaknesses. Moreover, methods or strategies of eliminating the disadvantages or demerits of these methods have also been discussed.

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