Creation of an asynchronous faculty development curriculum on well-written narrative assessments that avoid bias

BMC Med Educ. 2023 Apr 14;23(1):244. doi: 10.1186/s12909-023-04237-w.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic in parallel with concerns about bias in grading resulted in many medical schools adopting pass/fail clinical grading and relying solely on narrative assessments. However, narratives often contain bias and lack specificity. The purpose of this project was to develop asynchronous faculty development to rapidly educate/re-educate > 2000 clinical faculty spread across geographic sites and clinical disciplines on components of a well-written narrative and methods to minimize bias in the assessment of students.

Methods: We describe creation, implementation, and pilot data outcomes for an asynchronous faculty development curriculum created by a committee of volunteer learners and faculty. After reviewing the literature on the presence and impact of bias in clinical rotations and ways to mitigate bias in written narrative assessments, the committee developed a web-based curriculum using multimedia learning theory and principles of adult learning. Just-in-time supplemental materials accompanied the curriculum. The Dean added completion of the module by 90% of clinical faculty to the department chairperson's annual education metric. Module completion was tracked in a learning management system, including time spent in the module and the answer to a single text entry question about intended changes in behavior. Thematic analysis of the text entry question with grounded theory and inductive processing was used to define themes of how faculty anticipate future teaching and assessment as a result of this curricula.

Outcomes: Between January 1, 2021, and December 1, 2021, 2166 individuals completed the online module; 1820 spent between 5 and 90 min on the module, with a median time of 17 min and an average time of 20.2 min. 15/16 clinical departments achieved completion by 90% or more faculty. Major themes included: changing the wording of future narratives, changing content in future narratives, and focusing on efforts to change how faculty teach and lead teams, including efforts to minimize bias.

Conclusions: We developed a faculty development curriculum on mitigating bias in written narratives with high rates of faculty participation. Inclusion of this module as part of the chair's education performance metric likely impacted participation. Nevertheless, time spent in the module suggests that faculty engaged with the material. Other institutions could easily adapt this curriculum with provided materials.

Keywords: Assessment; Clinical education; Evaluation; Faculty development; Narratives; Racial bias; Undergraduate medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • Faculty
  • Humans
  • Narration
  • Pandemics