Formative assessment promotes learning in undergraduate clinical clerkships

  • VC Burch
  • JL Seggie
  • NE Gary


Introduction. Clinical clerkships, typically situated in environments lacking  educational structure, form the backbone of undergraduate medical  training. The imperative to develop strategies that enhance learning in this context is apparent. This study explored the impact of longitudinal bedside formative assessment on student learning in a medical clerkship.

Methods. We studied a class of 4th-year students completing a 14-week  medical clerkship at the.University of Cape Town in South Africa. Clinician  educators assessed student performance during weekly bedside teaching  sessions using blinded patient encounters (in which students had no prior knowledge of the patient's diagnosis or access to the clinical records).  Student feedback was.standardised using performance rating scales. The  impact of formative assessment on student learning was determined from questionnaire responses.

Results. A total of 575 formative assessments took place during the study  period. Students perceived blinded patient encounters to be a valuable  learning activity that improved their clinical reasoning skills and assessed  progress fairly. They reported that feedback helped inform them of their level of competence and learning needs, motivated them to read more, and significantly improved their participation in patient-centred learning  activities. Participating clinicians agreed that this formative assessment  strategy enhanced the learning potential of bedside teaching sessions.

Conclusions. Longitudinal formative assessment, using blinded patient encounters, was successfully integrated into undergraduate clerkship  bedside teaching. According to both students and staff this assessment strategy enhanced bedside learning and improved student participation in patientcentred learning activities during the clerkship.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135