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Assessment

Consideration of assessment of interprofessional learning (IPL) raises a number of questions.

First, should we assess IPL at all? Is it assessable? And if we do decide that we can, and we should, then:

  • how can IPL be assessed equitably, reliably and with validity?
  • how can we develop assessments that work across different courses and professional groups and that tie in with different learning outcomes and assessment patterns?
  • what should be in these assessments, what form should they take and where in the curricula should they be situated?
  • who assesses IPL?
  • should these be discipline-based teachers or do we need specialist IPL teachers?

With all these questions, it is unsurprising that, although there are many IPL initiatives in terms of learning activities, there has been little written about assessment – it presents one of the more difficult challenges.

Freeth (2007, p. 21) suggests that the key concept underpinning assessment of IPL is that of ‘constructive alignment’ (Biggs and Tang, 2007), in which all aspects of the curriculum: learning outcomes, educational or learning objectives, course design, teaching and learning activities, assessment and evaluation, are aligned so that there is a clear relationship between all aspects. Morison and Stewart (2005) pointed out the need to develop and use agreed interprofessional education (IPE) standards or learning outcomes as the basis for developing relevant assessments. So, the consequence of this is that if we teach IPL, we should teach according to agreed learning outcomes and we should also assess it overtly. We know that for many learners, assessment drives learning and what is assessed in the formal curriculum is more highly valued.

Assessment needs to reflect the approach and learning interventions that are in place, and teachers need to think carefully about what is actually being assessed. Many of the issues in IPL concern attitudes, beliefs and teamworking, always more difficult to assess than content or skills… but there is an emerging literature around this in healthcare professions’ education.

Thinking point

  • The e-learning module Workplace-based assessment provides more information on common assessments used in medical education. Many of these (such as multi-source feedback) involve other health professionals assessing doctors. How do you think this shift reflects interprofessional education? Is it IPE or something else? What are the implications (if any) for different health professionals assessing one another? How could you better prepare for these assessments?

 

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