Rethinking assessment design: Evidence informed strategies to boost educational impact in the anatomical sciences

Anat Sci Educ. 2021 Mar 22. doi: 10.1002/ase.2075. Online ahead of print.


University assessment is in the midst of transformation. Assessments are no longer designed solely to determine that students can remember and regurgitate lecture content, nor in order to rank students to aid with some future selection process. Instead assessments are expected to drive, support and enhance learning and to contribute to student self-assessment and development of skills and attributes for a lifetime of learning. While traditional purposes of certifying achievement and determining readiness to progress remain important, these new expectations for assessment can create tensions in assessment design, selection and deployment. With recognition of these tensions, three contemporary approaches to assessment in medical education are described. These approaches include: careful consideration of the educational impact of assessment - before, during (test or recall enhanced learning) and after assessments; development of student (and staff) assessment literacy; and planning of cohesive systems of assessment (with a range of assessment tools) designed to assess the various competencies demanded of future graduates. These approaches purposefully straddle the cross purposes of assessment in modern health professions education. The implications of these models are explored within the context of medical education and then linked with contemporary work in the anatomical sciences in order to highlight current synergies and potential future innovations when using evidence informed strategies to boost the educational impact of assessments.

Keywords: Assessment; assessment literacy; assessment programs; feedback literacy; programmatic assessment; recall enhanced learning; systems of assessment; test enhanced learning.