ISSN: 2222-8713
Volume 4, Number 1 (2014)
The impact of a change in assessment weighting on the academic performance of first year medical students
Damian Cohall, Desiree Skeete
The Phase I component of the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Barbados recently underwent a change in its assessment policy for the preclinical courses. This change was an adjustment of the preclinical courses' assessment weighting to improve learning outcomes in students approaching the clinical training years. The Fundamentals of Disease and Treatment (FDT) course is an important introduction to the integrated approach that is used in the delivery of the system-based courses in the preclinical phase of the medical programme. The change in assessment of this course included a transition from the heavier weight in the coursework component (60%) to the final exam component, formerly 40%, and a stipulation that the students had to pass the final exam in order to successfully complete the course. This study investigated the effect of the modification of the assessment weighting on the academic performance of medical students taking the FDT course at UWI, Cave Hill during the academic year 2012/2013. The study quantitatively assessed the first year students' performances before and after the change in the course assessment during the academic years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 respectively. In-course and final exam grades were categorised and analysed separately. T-tests were used to determine any significant differences between the means of academic performance between the cohorts over the study period. There were significant improvements in mid-semester tests, final course exams and overall course grades in the subsequent student cohort after the change. The results from the overall data analysis would suggest some relationship between assessment weighting and academic performance and that this relationship may be a result of the students' interpretation and internalisation of the rubrics that guided the assessments.