Driving lesson or driving test? A metaphor to help faculty separate feedback from assessment

Paul L. P. Brand*, A. Debbie C. Jaarsma, Cees P. M. van der Vleuten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although there is consensus in the medical education world that feedback is an important and effective tool to support experiential workplace-based learning, learners tend to avoid the feedback associated with direct observation because they perceive it as a high-stakes evaluation with significant consequences for their future. The perceived dominance of the summative assessment paradigm throughout medical education reduces learners' willingness to seek feedback, and encourages supervisors to mix up feedback with provision of 'objective' grades or pass/fail marks. This eye-opener article argues that the provision and reception of effective feedback by clinical supervisors and their learners is dependent on both parties' awareness of the important distinction between feedback used in coaching towards growth and development (assessment for learning) and reaching a high-stakes judgement on the learner's competence and fitness for practice (assessment of learning). Using driving lessons and the driving test as a metaphor for feedback and assessment helps supervisors and learners to understand this crucial difference and to act upon it. It is the supervisor's responsibility to ensure that supervisor and learner achieve a clear mutual understanding of the purpose of each interaction (i.e. feedback or assessment). To allow supervisors to use the driving lesson-driving test metaphor for this purpose in their interactions with learners, it should be included in faculty development initiatives, along with a discussion of the key importance of separating feedback from assessment, to promote a feedback culture of growth and support programmatic assessment of competence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Feedback
  • Assessment
  • Programmatic assessment
  • DOS

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