Assessment in the new midwifery programme

I have started the final course in the GCTLT at Otago Polytechnic. Here I am starting to reflect on the assessment process.

3353295436_0916afc680Image:  X class examinations from Bindass Madhavi’s phtos n

In midwifery it seems  to me that much of what students learn is assessment driven, this is common amongst health professional education (Wass, Vlueten, Shatzer & Jones, 2001). The reality of student learning is that students feel pressured from their workload and gear their learning to meet the criteria of course assessments. Wass et al, stress the importance of ensuring that assessment of students is aligned with the competencies expected of them in clinical practice. They suggest there is no one way to assess clinical competence for medical student, the assessment process will comprise a variety of assessment styles which provide the students with a variety of ways to demonstrate their understanding. Factual written tests can demonstrate what the student’s background knowledge, written tests with a clinical focus can demonstrate that the student knows how to approach clinical issues, OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) allows the student to show the skills that they have developed and performance assessment (through practice supervision, video of skills in clinical practice or reflective logs can demonstrate that the student can act appropriately in the practice setting.  Osce’s have been found to be a useful tool for supporting learning and identifying competence in the nursing professions (Mason,  Fletcher, McCormick, Perrin &Rigby, 2005; ) however, although they have been found to be beneficial they need to be part of a broad picture of assessment of students competence (Rushforth, 2007).

In the school of midwifery we are always trying to look critically at what we assess and how many assessments we require students to do. In the new curriculum much of the online material is accompanied by formative assessments, quizzes and such like, which are not marked but will guide the students through key points of the learning resources they are accessing. A few students complete these and value this process however the majority seem to ignore them and only concentrate on assessments that are marked or are at least looked at and acknowledged by the teaching staff. This suggests to me that we need to consider carefully what we assess, how we do it and how this will support students learning.


Mason, S.,  Fletcher, A., McCormick, S., Perrin J. &Rigby, A. (2005). Developing assessment of emergency nurse practitioner competence – a pilot study. Journal of advanced nursing. 50 (4), 425-432

Rushforth, H. E. (2007). Objective structured clinical examination (OSCE): Review of literature and implications for nursing education. Nurse Education Today. 27 (5), 481-490.

Wass, V. Van der Vlueten, C. Shatzer, J.  & Jones, R. (2001). Assessment of clinical competence. The Lancet, 357,  945-948