Considerations that will determine if competency-based assessment is a sustainable innovation

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2019 May;24(2):413-421. doi: 10.1007/s10459-018-9833-2. Epub 2018 May 18.


Educational assessment for the health professions has seen a major attempt to introduce competency based frameworks. As high level policy developments, the changes were intended to improve outcomes by supporting learning and skills development. However, we argue that previous experiences with major innovations in assessment offer an important road map for developing and refining assessment innovations, including careful piloting and analyses of their measurement qualities and impacts. Based on the literature, numerous assessment workshops, personal interactions with potential users, and our 40 years of experience in implementing assessment change, we lament the lack of a coordinated approach to clarify and improve measurement qualities and functionality of competency based assessment (CBA). To address this worrisome situation, we offer two roadmaps to guide CBA's further development. Initially, reframe and address CBA as a measurement development opportunity. Secondly, using a roadmap adapted from the management literature on sustainable innovation, the medical assessment community needs to initiate an integrated plan to implement CBA as a sustainable innovation within existing educational programs and self-regulatory enterprises. Further examples of down-stream opportunities to refocus CBA at the implementation level within faculties and within the regulatory framework of the profession are offered. In closing, we challenge the broader assessment community in medicine to step forward and own the challenge and opportunities to reframe CBA as an innovation to improve the quality of the clinical educational experience. The goal is to optimize assessment in health education and ultimately improve the public's health.

Keywords: Clinical assessment; Competency-based assessment; Disruptive innovation; Entrustable professional activities; Post-graduate medical assessment; Programmatic assessment; Sustainability; Undergraduate assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Competency-Based Education / methods*
  • Competency-Based Education / standards
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Health Occupations / education*
  • Health Occupations / standards
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Reproducibility of Results