Workplace-based assessment and students' approaches to learning: a qualitative inquiry

Med Teach. 2013;35 Suppl 1:S31-8. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2013.765547.


Background: We have performed this research to assess the effect of work-place based assessment (WBA) practice on medical students' learning approaches.

Methods: The research was conducted at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, College of Medicine from 1 March to 31 July 2012. We conducted a qualitative, phenomenological research utilizing semi-structured individual interviews with medical students exposed to WBA. The audio-taped interviews were transcribed verbatim, analyzed, and themes were identified. We preformed investigators' triangulation, member checking with clinical supervisors and we triangulated the data with a similar research performed prior to the implementation of WBA.

Results: WBA results in variable learning approaches. Based on several affecting factors; clinical supervisors, faculty-given feedback, and assessment function, students may swing between surface, deep and effort and achievement learning approaches. Students' and supervisors' orientations on the process of WBA, utilization of peer feedback and formative rather than summative assessment facilitate successful implementation of WBA and lead to students' deeper approaches to learning. Interestingly, students and their supervisors have contradicting perceptions to WBA.

Conclusion: A change in culture to unify students' and supervisors' perceptions of WBA, more accommodation of formative assessment, and feedback may result in students' deeper approach to learning.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Workplace*