Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review ABC of learning and teaching in medicine


BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 15 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:385
  1. Jill Morrison

    Evaluation is an essential part of the educational process. The focus of evaluation is on local quality improvement and is analogous to clinical audit. Medical schools require evaluation as part of their quality assurance procedures, but the value of evaluation is much greater than the provision of simple audit information. It provides evidence of how well students' learning objectives are being achieved and whether teaching standards are being maintained. Importantly, it also enables the curriculum to evolve. A medical curriculum should constantly develop in response to the needs of students, institutions, and society. Evaluation can check that the curriculum is evolving in the desired way. It should be viewed positively as contributing to the academic development of an institution and its members.

    Purpose of evaluation

    • To ensure teaching is meeting students' learning needs

    • To identify areas where teaching can be improved

    • To inform the allocation of faculty resources

    • To provide feedback and encouragement for teachers

    • To support applications for promotion by teachers

    • To identify and articulate what is valued by medical schools

    • To facilitate development of the curriculum

    Evaluation versus research

    Evaluation and educational research are similar activities but with important differences. Research is usually aimed at producing generalisable results that can be published in peer reviewed literature, and it requires ethical and other safeguards. Evaluation is generally carried out for local use and does not usually require ethics committee approval. Evaluation has to be carefully considered by curriculum committees, however, to ensure that it is being carried out ethically. Finally, evaluation is a continuous process, whereas research may not become continuous if the answer to the question is found.

    Evaluation cycle. From Wilkes et al (see “Further reading” box)

    What should be evaluated

    Evaluation may cover the process and/or outcome of any aspect of education, including the delivery and content of teaching. Questions about delivery may relate to organisation—for …

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