A new framework for designing programmes of assessment

J. Dijkstra*, C. P. M. Van der Vleuten, L. W. T. Schuwirth

*Corresponding author for this work

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Research on assessment in medical education has strongly focused on individual measurement instruments and their psychometric quality. Without detracting from the value of this research, such an approach is not sufficient to high quality assessment of competence as a whole. A programmatic approach is advocated which presupposes criteria for designing comprehensive assessment programmes and for assuring their quality. The paucity of research with relevance to programmatic assessment, and especially its development, prompted us to embark on a research project to develop design principles for programmes of assessment. We conducted focus group interviews to explore the experiences and views of nine assessment experts concerning good practices and new ideas about theoretical and practical issues in programmes of assessment. The discussion was analysed, mapping all aspects relevant for design onto a framework, which was iteratively adjusted to fit the data until saturation was reached. The overarching framework for designing programmes of assessment consists of six assessment programme dimensions: Goals, Programme in Action, Support, Documenting, Improving and Accounting. The model described in this paper can help to frame programmes of assessment; it not only provides a common language, but also a comprehensive picture of the dimensions to be covered when formulating design principles. It helps identifying areas concerning assessment in which ample research and development has been done. But, more importantly, it also helps to detect underserved areas. A guiding principle in design of assessment programmes is fitness for purpose. High quality assessment can only be defined in terms of its goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-393
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Assessment
  • Design principles
  • Model
  • Programmatic approach
  • Theory development

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