A model for programmatic assessment fit for purpose

Med Teach. 2012;34(3):205-14. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.652239.


We propose a model for programmatic assessment in action, which simultaneously optimises assessment for learning and assessment for decision making about learner progress. This model is based on a set of assessment principles that are interpreted from empirical research. It specifies cycles of training, assessment and learner support activities that are complemented by intermediate and final moments of evaluation on aggregated assessment data points. A key principle is that individual data points are maximised for learning and feedback value, whereas high-stake decisions are based on the aggregation of many data points. Expert judgement plays an important role in the programme. Fundamental is the notion of sampling and bias reduction to deal with the inevitable subjectivity of this type of judgement. Bias reduction is further sought in procedural assessment strategies derived from criteria for qualitative research. We discuss a number of challenges and opportunities around the proposed model. One of its prime virtues is that it enables assessment to move, beyond the dominant psychometric discourse with its focus on individual instruments, towards a systems approach to assessment design underpinned by empirically grounded theory.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational
  • Program Evaluation / methods*