The use of the nominal group technique as an evaluative tool in medical undergraduate education

Med Educ. 1999 Jan;33(1):8-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.1999.00288.x.


Objectives: In the present state of flux affecting UK medical undergraduate education, there is a pressing need for evaluative methods which will identify relevant outcomes both expected and unanticipated. The student perspective is now legitimately accepted to form part of any evaluative exercise but qualitative methods commonly used for this purpose are expensive in time and analytical skills. The nominal group technique (NGT) has been used for various purposes, including course evaluation, and appears well suited to this application. It combines qualitative and quantitative components in a structured interaction, which minimizes the influences of the researcher, and of group dynamics. The sequence and mechanics of the NGT process are described as applied to an end of first year evaluation in a novel undergraduate course. Doubts have been raised as to whether the results of NGT can be generalized to the larger group. In this paper, this problem is overcome by compiling a questionnaire based on the NGT items which was distributed throughout the class.

Design: Nominal group technique with questionnaire development.

Setting: The medical school at The University of Liverpool.

Subjects: Medical students.

Results: Previous claims made on behalf of the NGT, such as the focus on the student voice, the minimizing of leadership influence and the richness of the data, are upheld in this report. Broad agreement was found with the NGT items but two items (10%) did not display any consensus.

Conclusions: The questionnaire extension of the NGT provides back-up evidence of the reliability of the data derived from the technique and enables it to be applied to the larger groups typical of undergraduate medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Focus Groups*
  • Group Structure
  • Humans
  • Self-Evaluation Programs*
  • United Kingdom