The impact of entrustment assessments on feedback and learning: Trainee perspectives

L. Martin*, M. Sibbald, D.B. Vegas, D. Russell, M. Govaerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Context Assessment for and of learning in workplace settings is at the heart of competency-based medical education. In postgraduate medical education (PGME), entrustable professional activities (EPAs) and entrustment scales are increasingly used to assess competence. However, the educational impacts of these assessment approaches remain unknown. Therefore, this study aimed to explore trainee perceptions regarding the impacts of EPAs and entrustment scales on feedback and learning processes in the clinical setting.Methods Four focus groups were conducted with postgraduate trainees in anaesthesia, emergency medicine, general internal medicine and nephrology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Data collection and analysis were informed by principles of constructivist grounded theory.Results Entrustable professional activities representing well-defined tasks are perceived as potentially effective drivers for feedback and learning. Use of EPAs and entrustment scales, however, may augment existing tensions between developmental (for learning) and decision-making (of learning) assessment functions. Three key dilemmas seem to influence the impact of EPA-based assessment approaches on residents' learning: (a) standardisation of outcomes versus flexibility in assessment to align with individual learning experiences; (b) assessment tasks focusing on performance standards versus opportunities for learning, and (c) feedback focusing on numeric entrustment scores versus narrative and dialogue. Use of entrustment as an assessment outcome may impact trainees' motivation and feelings of self-efficacy, further enhancing tensions between learning and performance.Conclusions Entrustable professional activities and entrustment scales may support assessment for learning in PGME. However, their successful implementation requires the careful management of dilemmas that arise in EPA-based assessment in order to support competence development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-336
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • doctors
  • education
  • epas
  • medicine
  • programmatic assessment
  • workplace-based assessment
  • EPAS

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