The impact of an enhanced assessment tool on students' experience of being assessed in clinical practice: a focus group study


As part of a CETL funded project (ALPS 2006) 29 student midwives and their link lecturers were given an electronic version of a clinical portfolio on hand held computers (PDAs). These devices were used during an eight week clinical practice placement to record tripartite assessment interviews and to facilitate grading of the placement. Three focus groups conducted at the end of the placement explored the concept of clinical practice assessment and the impact of the electronic portfolio on the students’ experience of clinical practice and its assessment. Data was analysed from an activity theory perspective in that the electronic assessment tool was viewed as an artefact mediating situated knowing about student assessment in a particular socio-historical context. Findings suggest that students perceive clinical assessment as contested with different assessors having different understandings of it. However the electronic devise facilitated changes to the assessment tool. These changes promoted a shared understanding of the assessment process which was pragmatic and acceptable to students and clinicians. The significance of this study is that it highlights the role of assessment tools in creating a shared understanding of the assessment process rather than simply articulating that understanding.
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