JOURNAL ARTICLE

Educational impact of an assessment of medical students' collaboration in health care teams

Asela Olupeliyawa, Chinthaka Balasooriya, Chris Hughes, Anthony O'Sullivan
Medical Education 2014, 48 (2): 146-56
24528397

CONTEXT: This paper explores how structured feedback and other features of workplace-based assessment (WBA) impact on medical students' learning in the context of an evaluation of a workplace-based performance assessment: the teamwork mini-clinical evaluation exercise (T-MEX). The T-MEX enables observation-based measurement of and feedback on the behaviours required to collaborate effectively as a junior doctor within the health care team. The instrument is based on the mini-clinical evaluation exercise (mini-CEX) format and focuses on clinical encounters such as consultations with medical and allied health professionals, discharge plan preparation, handovers and team meetings.

METHODS: The assessment was implemented during a 6-week period in 2010 with 25 medical students during their final clinical rotation. Content analysis was conducted on the written feedback provided by 23 assessors and the written reflections and action plans proposed by the 25 student participants (in 88 T-MEX forms). Semi-structured interviews with seven assessors and three focus groups with 14 student participants were conducted and the educational impact was explored through thematic analysis.

RESULTS: The study enabled the identification of features of WBA that promote the development of collaborative competencies. The focus of the assessment on clinical encounters and behaviours important for collaboration provided opportunities for students to engage with the health care team and highlighted the role of teamwork in these encounters. The focus on specific behaviours and a stage-appropriate response scale helped students identify learning goals and facilitated the provision of focused feedback. Incorporating these features within an established format helped students and supervisors to engage with the instrument. Extending the format to include structured reflection enabled students to self-evaluate and develop plans for improvement.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings illuminate the mechanisms by which WBA facilitates learning. The educational features highlighted include effectively structured feedback processes, support for situated learning, a positive backwash (facilitation of learning through preparation for the assessment), and facilitation of informed self-assessment.

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