The power of subjectivity in competency-based assessment

J Postgrad Med. 2020 Oct 7. doi: 10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_591_20. Online ahead of print.


With the introduction of competency-based undergraduate curriculum in India, a paradigm shift in the assessment methods and tools will be the need of the hour. Competencies are complex combinations of various attributes, many of which being not assessable by objective methods. Assessment of affective and communication domains has always been neglected for want of objective methods. Areas like professionalism, ethics, altruism, and communication-so vital for being an Indian Medical Graduate, can be assessed longitudinally applying subjective means only. Though subjectivity has often been questioned as being biased, it has been proven time and again that a subjective assessment in expert hands gives comparable results as that of any objective assessment. By insisting on objectivity, we may compromise the validity of the assessment and deprive the students of enriched subjective feedback and judgement also. This review highlights the importance of subjective assessment in competency-based assessment and ways and means of improving the rigor of subjective assessment, with particular emphasis on the development and use of rubrics.

Keywords: Competency-Based Medical Education; objectivity; reliability; rubrics; validity.