Program Evaluation in Medical Education
The term evaluation is best defined as a process of decision making about the object being evaluated and how it compares to some agreed upon standard of acceptability. In medical education, the importance of program evaluation has been elevated in recent years by a gradual shift to an outcomes-oriented approach. Medical education must be concerned not only with curricular content and the process of teaching, but also with the outcomes of teaching. The outcomes approach asks such questions as:
- Did the student really learn what s/he was supposed to learn?
- Can the student apply specific knowledge to patient care scenarios?
- By graduation, can the student demonstrate mastery of specific areas of knowledge, procedural skill and/or attitudes?
- Is the student competent to move on to the next stage of physician training?
What are the implications of this shift toward outcomes? At least the following:
- A highly centralized curricular management structure
- Precise definition of educational objectives at both institutional and course levels (with course objectives tying back to school-wide objectives and student assessment procedures reflecting the achievement of those objectives)
- A systematic approach to collection and review of data on key curricular outcomes
- Continuous review of evaluation data, with educational improvement informed by those data and systematic follow up of recommendations made as a result
- Detailed documentation of all governance/management activities
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of medical knowledge, a medical school curriculum should be viewed as dynamic and ever-changing. As stated well in a recent book on curriculum development and management in medical education:
"A successful curriculum is continually developing. It must respond to evaluation and feedback, to changes in the knowledge base and the material requiring mastery, to changes in resources (including faculty), to changes in its targeted learners, and to changes in institutional and societal values and needs" (Kern et al, 1998).
Brody SOM and its faculty are fully committed to continuous educational review and improvement, based on an outcomes-oriented strategy of evaluating the medical school curriculum.