The use of objective structured self-assessment and peer-feedback (OSSP) for learning communication skills: evaluation using a controlled trial

Jennifer Perera, Galy Mohamadou, Satpal Kaur
Advances in Health Sciences Education 2010, 15 (2): 185-93
Feedback is essential to guide students towards expected performance goals. The usefulness of teacher feedback on improving communication skills (CS) has been well documented. It has been proposed that self-assessment and peer-feedback has an equally important role to play in enhancing learning. This is the focus of this study. Objectively structured self-assessment and peer feedback (OSSP) was incorporated into small group CS teaching sessions of a group of semester one medical students who were learning CS for the first time, to minimise the influence of previous educational interventions. A control group matched for academic performance, gender and age was used to enable parallel evaluation of the innovation. A reflective log containing closed and open ended questions was used for OSSP. Facilitators and simulated patients provided feedback to students in both groups during CS learning as per routine practice. Student perceptions on OSSP and acceptability as a learning method were explored using a questionnaire. CS were assessed in both groups using objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) as per routine practice and assessors were blinded as to which group the student belonged. Mean total score and scores for specific areas of interview skills were significantly higher in the experimental group. Analysis of the questionnaire data showed that students gained fresh insights into specific areas such as empathy, addressing patients' concerns and interview style during OSSP which clearly corroborated the specific differences in scores. The free text comments were highly encouraging as to acceptability of OSSP, in spite of 67% being never exposed to formal self- and peer-assessment during pre-university studies. OSSP promotes effective CS learning and learner acceptability is high.

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