The Anatomical Society Educational Symposium: 20th July 2010
This was a very interesting and useful session with speakers from the Universities of Oxford, Southampton, Birmingham and Cardiff detailing how they assess anatomy and a presentation from the University of Newcastle on the External Examining System. As usual after each presentation there was an engaging discussion. I have tried to capture the focus of the discussions in the following paragraphs.
Discussions focused on the rigor of assessments and the standard setting/validation methods used. In particular assessing if a student was competent to pass; there was some talk around how a pass mark is best generated. It appeared that the current methods used (Ebel’s, modified Angoff and regression analysis) are appropriate and that each institution is conducting work to further strengthen these methods. I personally feel that at a future symposium we should revisit this to see how these are developing. Some institutions use a minimum pass mark to ensure that students cannot compensate across assessments: there was general support for this.
There were questions about what a ‘spot’ test actually tests and why people use them. This generated many quick responses which centred on the need to assess a 3 dimensional subject in a 3 dimensional way. It was felt that when students have learnt anatomy from human cadavers then they should be assessed using this resource, on the grounds that placing the teaching, learning and assessment in line is of educational merit and should continue. There was overall support for ‘spot’ exams; the presentations showed how such exams can be used to test higher order thinking rather than simply ‘identify’ structures.
The role and merits of vivas were discussed. Many institutions do not use them, however, it was felt that if appropriately conducted, vivas are very useful for students as a formative assessment. Some common issues were identified concerning the pros and cons of examining in an integrated course: it was essential that experienced anatomists were involved in the design and writing of integrated examinations.
Discussion on the External Examining system focused on common issues that individuals have faced. The idea that the Anatomical Society should play a role in supporting and training External Examiners in anatomy was welcomed by many.
The final question posed was ‘What are we actually assessing in anatomy assessments?’ At that point is was time for a well earned break: this question fuelled many lunch time chats and we can hopefully return to it at a later meeting.
Read the reports presented at the meeting