Students' perceptions of the impact of assessment on approaches to learning: a comparison between two medical schools with similar curricula

Hanan M. Al Kadri1, Mohamed S. Al-Moamary1, Mohi E. Magzoub1, Chris Roberts2 and Cees P.M. van der Vleuten3

1College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Saudi Arabia

2Sydney Medical School-Northern, University of Sydney, Australia

3Department of Educational Development and Research, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands

Submitted: 20/01/2011; Accepted: 24/05/2011; Published: 27/05/2011

Int J Med Educ. 2011; 2:44-52; doi: 10.5116/ijme.4ddb.fc11

© 2011 Hanan M. Al Kadri et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate students' perceptions of assessment and the resulting learning styles.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 students and 8 clinical supervisors from Sydney Medical School and 12 students and 13 clinical supervisors from King Saud bin Abdulaziz University. Both institutions have similar curricula but a different assessment approach. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Interview transcripts were stored and analyzed using ATLAS.ti.

Results: Three themes emerged from analyses of the interviews: the function of assessment, learning outcomes and, finally, authentic assessment in the clinical environment. A model is presented to show the relationship between contextual and different personal factors and students' perceptions of the impact of assessment on learning styles.

Conclusions: Cultural differences and emotions can affect students' perceptions of assessment and learning styles. A combination of formative and summative assessment based on learning objectives is required. This combination should take into consideration students' cultural background, values and the implemented education system. This balance should be sufficient to motivate students in order to maintain their focus and attention, and reduce the potential negative impacts of a hidden curriculum. The experience of authentic assessment was a powerful motivator for students' approaches to learning.