INNOVATION: A Creative Final Evaluation: Measuring Achievement in a First Year Patient Centered Medicine Course

Norma S. Saks, Ed.D.*, Carol A. Terregino, M.D.

Office of Education
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
675 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA


Student achievement in first year basic science courses is commonly measured with multiple choice examinations to assess knowledge acquisition. Measuring growth/achievement in “doctoring courses” is more challenging. The goals of our Patient Centered Medicine (PCM I) course include developing effective patient-doctor communication skills, learning to work as members of multi-disciplinary health care teams, and demonstrating knowledge of ethics, cultural competency, and medical economics. Course instruction includes large group activities (lectures, films, patient interviews), faculty facilitated small group activities (discussions and standardized patient encounters), and individual self-directed learning (readings, journal writing.) Faculty facilitators evaluate students weekly in small groups; an end-of-year OSCE evaluates communication skills. To assess the broader array of course competencies, we implemented a creative final course evaluation that is enjoyable for both students and faculty.

Each spring toward the end of PCM I, students collaborate in their small groups (10 -11 students) to select a health care system problem and potential solution, and to develop a 10 minute creative presentation (skit, song, poem, dance), to present to the whole class. Over the past two years, topics/themes have included improving the quality and safety of health care, complementary/alternative/integrative medicine, culturally competent care, ethical challenges in health care, and interfacing spirituality, religion, faith, and medicine. Faculty rate the presentations (2 = Excellent, 1 = Good, 0 = Fair/Poor) on the extent that acquisition of the course competencies is demonstrated, on evidence of working collaboratively, and on overall creativity.

Student evaluations of the final exercise have been overwhelmingly positive. Students enjoy the change of pace, collaborating with classmates, engaging in the project, and the satisfaction of having produced a good quality final presentation. Negative comments related to the project taking more time than expected, and to the difficulty in getting the group together for planning. Although there was some resistance in year one, the exercise now appears to be part of school “culture,” an expectation for the end of PCM I and the M1 year. Faculty report that watching the performances is enjoyable, and an effective way for students to demonstrate growth and achievement in the Patient Centered Medicine course.

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