The mini-clinical evaluation exercise during medical clerkships: are learning needs and learning goals aligned?

Med Educ. 2014 Oct;48(10):1008-19. doi: 10.1111/medu.12513.


Objectives: The generation of learning goals (LGs) that are aligned with learning needs (LNs) is one of the main purposes of formative workplace-based assessment. In this study, we aimed to analyse how often trainer-student pairs identified corresponding LNs in mini-clinical evaluation exercise (mini-CEX) encounters and to what degree these LNs aligned with recorded LGs, taking into account the social environment (e.g. clinic size) in which the mini-CEX was conducted.

Methods: Retrospective analyses of adapted mini-CEX forms (trainers' and students' assessments) completed by all Year 4 medical students during clerkships were performed. Learning needs were defined by the lowest score(s) assigned to one or more of the mini-CEX domains. Learning goals were categorised qualitatively according to their correspondence with the six mini-CEX domains (e.g. history taking, professionalism). Following descriptive analyses of LNs and LGs, multi-level logistic regression models were used to predict LGs by identified LNs and social context variables.

Results: A total of 512 trainers and 165 students conducted 1783 mini-CEXs (98% completion rate). Concordantly, trainer-student pairs most often identified LNs in the domains of 'clinical reasoning' (23% of 1167 complete forms), 'organisation/efficiency' (20%) and 'physical examination' (20%). At least one 'defined' LG was noted on 313 student forms (18% of 1710). Of the 446 LGs noted in total, the most frequently noted were 'physical examination' (49%) and 'history taking' (21%). Corresponding LNs as well as social context factors (e.g. clinic size) were found to be predictors of these LGs.

Conclusions: Although trainer-student pairs often agreed in the LNs they identified, many assessments did not result in aligned LGs. The sparseness of LGs, their dependency on social context and their partial non-alignment with students' LNs raise questions about how the full potential of the mini-CEX as not only a 'diagnostic' but also an 'educational' tool can be exploited.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Clerkship / organization & administration*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult