The Urgency of Now: Rethinking and Improving Assessment Practices in Medical Education Programs

Acad Med. 2023 Apr 18. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000005251. Online ahead of print.


Assessment is essential to professional development. Assessment provides the information needed to give feedback, support coaching and the creation of individualized learning plans, inform progress decisions, determine appropriate supervision levels, and, most importantly, help ensure patients and families receive high-quality, safe care in the training environment. While the introduction of competency-based medical education has catalyzed advances in assessment, much work remains to be done. First, becoming a physician (or other health professional) is primarily a developmental process, and assessment programs must be designed using a developmental and growth mindset. Second, medical education programs must have integrated programs of assessment that address the interconnected domains of implicit, explicit and structural bias. Third, improving programs of assessment will require a systems-thinking approach. In this paper, the authors first address these overarching issues as key principles that must be embraced so that training programs may optimize assessment to ensure all learners achieve the desired medical education outcomes. The authors then explore specific needs in assessment and provide suggestions to improve assessment practices. This paper is by no means inclusive of all medical education assessment challenges or possible solutions. However, there is a wealth of current assessment research and practice that medical education programs can use to improve educational outcomes and help reduce the harmful effects of bias. The authors' goal is to help improve and guide innovation in assessment by catalyzing further conversations.