• Vol. 35 No. 9, 634–641
  • 15 September 2006

A Simple Instrument for the Assessment of Student Performance in Problem-based Learning Tutorials



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Introduction: A process-oriented instrument was developed for the summative assessment of student performance during problem-based learning (PBL) tutorials. This study evaluated (1) the acceptability of the instrument by tutors and (2) the consistency of assessment scores by different raters.

Materials and methods: A survey of the tutors who had used the instrument was conducted to determine whether the assessment instrument or form was user-friendly. The 4 competencies assessed, using a 5-point rating scale, were (1) participation and communication skills, (2) cooperation or team-building skills, (3) comprehension or reasoning skills and (4) knowledge or information-gathering skills. Tutors were given a set of criteria guidelines for scoring the students’ performance in these 4 competencies. Tutors were not attached to a particular PBL group, but took turns to facilitate different groups on different case or problem discussions. Assessment scores for one cohort of undergraduate medical students in their respective PBL groups in Year I (2003/2004) and Year II (2004/2005) were analysed. The consistency of scores was analysed using intraclass correlation.

Results: The majority of the tutors surveyed expressed no difficulty in using the instrument and agreed that it helped them assess the students fairly. Analysis of the scores obtained for the above cohort indicated that the different raters were relatively consistent in their assessment of student performance, despite a small number consistently showing either “strict” or “indiscriminate” rating practice.

Conclusion: The instrument designed for the assessment of student performance in the PBL tutorial classroom setting is user-friendly and is reliable when used judiciously with the criteria guidelines provided.

Assessment can be done in a variety of ways, for many purposes, and for different populations. It can occur at the classroom level, programme level, college level or even national level.

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