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The challenges of workplace-based assessments

students discuss workplace-based assessments
Work-based assessments do fit into overall assessments of healthcare students at a given educational facility. Unfortunately, because medical students, healthcare students, nursing students, and pharmacy students find themselves in different workplaces, there can unfortunately be discrepancies between one site to another. For example, hospital one may say everyone’s going to pass this assessment, and actually, we’re just here to give you a bit of feedback after you’ve passed. Hospital two may be very, very stringent in their assessment and they might not allow the students to pass straight off the bat. Unfortunately, that means work-based assessments will lead to actually a lot of inconsistencies in overall data.
So unfortunately, this means that the majority of assessment has to be kept centralised and in-house, governed by the given educational facility. As a student, we had workplace-based assessments in all of our placements from the beginning of our clinical years. However, I’m not sure they were used to the best of their ability. They became a tick box exercise, rather than a way of assessing students. And until the very last weeks of my medical school career, I couldn’t tell you what a mini-CEX was or a case-based discussion in real depth. And actually, that’s what I needed to know to be a junior doctor. I think for other healthcare professionals they’re also important.
But I think making sure that students understand them and their role, early on, is the best way to get the most out of them.

In this video our students, Joel and Victoria, share their perspective on workplace-based assessments.

Take a look at the reference below which explains the philosophy and challenges of workplace-based assessments in postgraduate medical education (but is also relevant for other healthcare professions) along with some recommendations:

Discussion point

  • As a teacher, or as a learner, what do you think are the main challenges of work-place based assessment, and how do you think we can overcome them?

Share your thoughts and ideas below.


Improving assessment: further guidance and recommendations. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. London, 2016

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