SAFRI 2011 (session 2) – day 2

“Teach” a group of colleagues about “Assessment”. Here are some notes I took in preparation for a 5 minute teaching session

What is assessment?

“Defines for students what is important, what counts, how they will spend their times and how they will see themselves as learners. If you want to change student learning, then change methods of assessment” (Brown, Bull and Pendlebury)

Integrate assessment into teaching and learning in a way that includes students in the process

Feedback is an important part of assessment

  • Should be frequent
  • Must identify gaps and provide direction to help students close the gap
  • Stimulates deep learning
  • Feedback should be task-centred, not emotional / personal

Assessment linked to outcomes i.e. are we assessing what we say is important for our graduates to be able to do (alignment)

Students can be involved in self-assessment and peer feedback but it needs to be scaffolded / structured. Should be used for different reasons

Personal and professional development. Do we assess for good physio’s or good people? Peer assessment can be used to encourage formation of professional behaviour and interpersonal dimensions

Move away from a testing culture to an assessment culture i.e. away from an emphasis on procedures and products of assessment to emphasis a process of assessment → deep learning. Difference between “knowing what” and “knowing how”


  • Assessment practices that improve teaching and learning (Luckett & Sutherland)
  • Assessment in medical education (Epstein)

Feedback as an educational tool

Start with the positive, then move on to negative. Also, feedback doesn’t have to even include a negative. We can also use it to highlight good work / understanding. As long as it is always given with the intention of moving the student forward. I would argue that splitting feedback into “positive” and “negative” might have little value anyway. Students will often latch onto the “negative” and forget anything positive you opened with. Can feedback be neutral, aiming only to highlight how the student can move forward?

Feedback should always be aimed at “closing the gap” between what is currently known and where the student should be i.e. it should always be formative

It should not be personal or have a value judgement assigned. The purpose is to identify a problem with a behaviour / skills / competency /etc. not with the person

Identify what they do know, what they don’t know and how to improve

Use feedback as an opportunity for self-assessment e.g. How do you feel about that? What do you think you could have done better? What did you do well?

Needs to be given as soon as is appropriate. Some feedback may be better given in private, or in a group, depending on the context

Be kind / sensitive / aware / empathic

Acknowledge if you are at fault e.g. arriving late for a feedback session / tutorial

Be aware of power relationships

Feedback should be continuous

Follow up on your feedback

The feedback should be written down at some stage, either by the student or teacher. Verbal feedback given in the moment may not be remembered later

It’s not only important to identify what students got wrong, but also to try and determine why they got it wrong


Curriculum development

Whose needs does the curriculum address? Ultimately, the community who will be served by the graduates of your course → the aims & objectives of the course must be aligned with community needs

Harden’s 10 Question model for curriculum design

“How is the detail of the curriculum communicated”, especially to first year students? Are students aware of how what they’re doing right now is relevant to the course they signed up for e.g. why am I studying physics, I want to be a sports physio?


SPICES model of educational strategies:

  • Student-centred ↔ Teacher centred
  • Problem-based ↔ Information gathering
  • Integrated ↔ Discipline-based
  • Community-based ↔ Hospital-based
  • Electives ↔ Standard programme
  • Systematic ↔ Apprenticeship-based or Opportunistic

There are models that can be used to determine where a curriculum lies on each of the spectrums listed above

Is a curriculum set in stone, or is it dynamic?

“Diseases of the curriculum” (Abrahamson, 1960s)

You can’t teach everything (there’s just too much) but you can help students become self-directed learners, which is what clinicians are. We don’t have all the answers but we know how to find the answers that will help fill the gaps in our knowledge / understanding. If students think they’re supposed to know all the answers, then that’s an enormous burden to carry

How do we select students who had a poor secondary education but who have the potential to be good (great?) therapists / clinicians? How do you support them?

You should always look for competence in students, no matter what curriculum design you use

A discipline-based approach doesn’t challenge students to engage with the later stages of Bloom’s taxonomy

Problem-based learning helps to create a more authentic learning environment / experience and allows the integration of pre-clinical and clinical science

“The contribution of South African curricula to prepare health professionals for working in rural or under-served areas in South Africa: a peer review evaluation. SAMJ, 2011, 101:34-38

What happens to students when they leave? Should this be a question we consider during curriculum planning?


  • Informative
  • Formative
  • Transformative

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Einstein