Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Evaluating educational interventions

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 08 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1269
  1. M Wilkes (, senior chair, doctoring curriculuma,
  2. J Bligh, professorb
  1. aOffice of the Dean, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7035, USA
  2. bDepartment of Health Care Education, Liverpool University Medical School, Liverpool L69 3GA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Wilkes

    Recent extensive changes have taken place in medical education at all levels in both the United Kingdom and the United States. These changes need to be assessed to measure how well reforms have achieved their intended outcomes. Educational innovation can be complex and extensive, and its measurement and description is made more difficult by the confounding and complicating effects of each later stage in the continuous curriculum. The radical curriculum reform at undergraduate level in the United Kingdom, managed care in the United States, and the increasing use of community sites for learning in both countries may greatly affect how medicine is practised and managed in the next century.1 We should know more about the educational processes and outcomes that result from the new courses and programmes being developed in medical schools and postgraduate training.

    Summary points

    • Evaluation drives both learning and curriculum development and needs to be given serious attention at the earliest stages of change.

    • Summative evaluation can no longer rely on a single assessment tool but must include measures of skill, knowledge, behaviour, and attitude

    • New assessment tools do not necessarily duplicate each other but assess and evaluate different components of a doctor's performance

    • Assessment needs to be part of an ongoing evaluation cycle intended to keep the curriculum fresh, educationally sound, and achieving its intended objectives

    What is educational evaluation?

    Educational evaluation is the systematic appraisal of the quality of teaching and learning.2 In many ways evaluation drives the development and change of curriculums (figure). At its core, evaluation is about helping medical educators improve education. Evaluation can have a formative role, identifying areas where teaching can be improved, or a summative role, judging the effectiveness of teaching. Although educational evaluation uses methods and tools that are similar to those used in educational research, the results of research are more …

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