2 comments on “Failure to Fail Part 1- Why faculty evaluation may not identify a failing learner

  1. Interesting post Dr. Lalani! Here are some random ramblings….

    As a student, evaluation is often on my mind as well. It can be very difficult to be a good and fair evaluator. I have seen some attendings be overly soft, giving exceeds or meets expectations when a student was clearly needing remedial work (opinion of rest of student group), but I’ve also seen some attendings be overly critical just because a student isn’t doing things “his/her” way, even though the student may have been previously taught that specific technique.

    I don’t think it is unfair or anything of the sort to fail a student who hasn’t performed to a standard. *But* I do think it necessary to inform the student of this before so s/he can act on the feedback before final evaluation. This is supposed to happen all the time already, but sometimes feedback is very sparse, unclear, and contradictory. From a student’s perspective, it can be a maze to navigate.

    An additional stress/difficulty for faculty though is sometimes they spend very little time with the student. Often it is the nurses or residents who see the student day-to-day, so how can an attending evaluate properly? Difficult for them for sure. I’m not sure how often attendings speak with the residents and nurses for multi-source feedback, but it doesn’t seem to happen nearly as often as it should. Another thing I have seen at one med school is students provide some of the multi-source feedback as well. I would really appreciate this as I feel students know the other students best, especially their teamwork and communication skills, etc. I’ve witnessed some instances where unprofessional behavior has occurred with/toward other students or with residents, but the attending never finds out because no one communicates the concern for fear of reprisal (esp. w/ fellow students). Maybe adding a student to the evaluation process would create more genuineness, as there is no need to impress/suck up to a classmate as sometimes occurs with attendings. This might be a better reflection for the “soft” skills….?

    I also wonder as well how CaRMS plays into this. Nearly every program description says under selection criteria “above average performance”. Clearly this makes no mathematical sense.

    In any case, there’ some jumbled thoughts. Thanks for the post, look forward to part 2!

    • Hi Danica,
      thanks for the student perspective – you have it right. Part 2 discusses some of the bias evaluators unwittingly introduce into evaluation. I also prescribe my solution to some of the questions you raise … stay tuned!

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