Assessment – a dynamic process focused on student learning and patient care

Teresa Van Deven, PhD, has a passion for education and the scholarship of education. As a curriculum specialist and the Curriculum Oversight Coordinator, she is immersed in what she describes as a creative world dedicated to ensuring students are receiving the best education, and, that ultimately, patients are receiving the best care.

Van Deven divides her time between the oversight of the dynamic and ever-evolving worlds of the undergraduate medical education (UME) curriculum and working with the Assessment Team, which is led by Assesment Specialist, Stacy Miller, to help design and support student assessment. Not always an easy task, but one she enjoys.

“The curriculum is a living entity," said Van Deven. "It’s always moving, always evolving and always needing support. The same can be said about assessment, and that’s where I come into the picture.” 

For the most part, UME assessment at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry prescribes to a hybrid model of assessment utilizing various assessment strategies such as: narrative feedback, self-assessment, peer assessment, extended match, key features, research projects, and team-based learning. We acknowledge the importance of formative feedback and have devoted considerable energy to designing robust ways of incorporating formative feedback into our courses.

Every year course chairs meet with their committees and look at alternatives for assessment for the courses; course chairs work closely with our Assessment Team as they introduce new methods of assessment or refine assessments already in place. “We have a creative and dedicated faculty and a creative UME Administrative team, which helps to keep things interesting,” she said. Often, students participate in the review process; and this summer, we had 14 summer students working on a variety of projects—many of which included assessment.”

In the new fourth year curriculum, there will be ongoing assessment using research projects, weekly case-based modules, Selectives, a communication course and a physicianship course. . This new course, “Integration and Transitions” has been designed by a Working Group led by Dr. Eric Wong, which has put robust efforts into the assessment portion of this course.

Overall, within the curriculum, the whole approach to assessment is to look at the application, synthesis and evaluation of knowledge, and to be sure that all assessment methods are transferable to practise. These are the important parts of learning that are emphasized.

Once a course is established and the assessment is planned out, it goes to the Instructional Design Committee for review. The committee co-chaired by Dr. Kathryn Roth and Dr. Teresa Van Deven,is mandated to conduct reviews of all courses within the curriculum, including the assessment. From this point, the Quality Committee reviews the entirety of the courses. The final step for review and approval is the Curriculum Committee.

It’s an intricate process, but one that Van Deven believes is necessary. “It’s very important that all the decisions on the design of the curriculum and the assessment are made from a pedagogical basis,” she said. “It’s critical that our students come out of their courses with more than just recall skills.”

Always striving to enrich and enhance the assessment tools including those in the question banking and remediation process in UME course, the School has recently purchased software called Examsoft.
“We found this tool could not only improve how we use questions and design assessments from year to year, but also improve how we provide feedback and reporting to students and course committees.”

Examsoft, introduced to UME by Stacy Miller, will allow for the development of a robust question bank; provide access to powerful analytics for assessment and individual student performance; detailed reports, personalized reports for students, faculty and administrations and help to improve grading and turn-around time for grades.

Van Deven’s entire career has been focused on education. In addition to teaching for more than 25 years in Canada, Asia and India, she has written three books on scholarship in education, worked as a consultant on curriculum development internationally, addressed the United Nations and worked with scholars around the world.

Today, she shares her expertise with her peers at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry with pride. And she is quick to acknowledge the tremendous team with whom she works. “I have the pleasure of working with some very talented people,” she said. In addition to the faculty and UME administration, she is very grateful to the assessment team including Stacy Miller and Holly Ellinor.

Together they are looking forward to the UME Accreditation in April, which will put the spotlight on the curriculum and assessment process. Van Deven believes that ultimately assessment is about creating a thoughtful and knowledgeable physician who can deliver excellent patient care.