Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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Putting students to work on teacher evaluation

Assessing effective teaching: What medical students value when developing evaluation instruments. Pettit JE et al. Academic Medicine 2015;90:94-99.

Reviewed by Janet Meller

What was the study question?
What criteria do medical students value and use in assessing teachers and can medical students create a useful instrument to assess teaching skills?

How was the study done?
4th year medical students at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine were offered a 4 week elective in medical teaching, designed to improve their skills as resident teachers. 25% (n=193) of the students over 5 years (2007-2013) opted to participate in this elective. As part of the elective, each group of students developed a teaching evaluation instrument. 36 instruments were developed and were subjected to thematic analysis to identify dominant characteristics and common descriptors.

What were the results?
Of the 36 instruments developed, no two instruments were the same in appearance or evaluation strategy. Nevertheless, 4 dominant themes were identified. 1: teacher personal attributes (enthusiasm, professionalism); 2: learning environment (respect, rapport, material tailored to audience); 3: content (relevance, substance); 4: teaching methods (organization, innovation, interactive methods). Two descriptors were used most commonly: engagement and tailoring to level of the learner (90%), followed by enthusiasm and respect. The Likert scale with comment boxes were used in 88.9% (32/36) evaluations.

What are the implications of these findings?
Medical educators are invested in providing high quality teaching for their students. In general, medical students, despite being primary users of evaluation instruments, are not involved in their development. This study demonstrates that 4th year medical students are well suited and able to develop effective evaluation instruments. 4 themes of effective teaching were consistently identified with some categories more highly valued. The authors propose that further research could include involving medical students in different institutions in the development of evaluation instruments both to strengthen the instrument and identify best practices.

Editor's Note: What a great experience for the students! I wonder how it affected the students' attitude and their method of completing evaluations—this wasn't examined in the study. It is reassuring to see that most of the dominant themes are similar to that on their school's current evaluation and also to those in the literature. (JG)

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