Workplace-based assessment: effects of rater expertise

M. J. B. Govaerts*, L. W. T. Schuwirth, C. P. M. Van der Vleuten, A. M. M. Muijtjens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Traditional psychometric approaches towards assessment tend to focus exclusively on quantitative properties of assessment outcomes. This may limit more meaningful educational approaches towards workplace-based assessment (WBA). Cognition-based models of WBA argue that assessment outcomes are determined by cognitive processes by raters which are very similar to reasoning, judgment and decision making in professional domains such as medicine. The present study explores cognitive processes that underlie judgment and decision making by raters when observing performance in the clinical workplace. It specifically focuses on how differences in rating experience influence information processing by raters. Verbal protocol analysis was used to investigate how experienced and non-experienced raters select and use observational data to arrive at judgments and decisions about trainees' performance in the clinical workplace. Differences between experienced and non-experienced raters were assessed with respect to time spent on information analysis and representation of trainee performance; performance scores; and information processing--using qualitative-based quantitative analysis of verbal data. Results showed expert-novice differences in time needed for representation of trainee performance, depending on complexity of the rating task. Experts paid more attention to situation-specific cues in the assessment context and they generated (significantly) more interpretations and fewer literal descriptions of observed behaviors. There were no significant differences in rating scores. Overall, our findings seemed to be consistent with other findings on expertise research, supporting theories underlying cognition-based models of assessment in the clinical workplace. Implications for WBA are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-165
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Clinical education
  • Cognition-based assessment models
  • Competence assessment
  • Performance assessment
  • Professional education
  • Professional judgment
  • Rater expertise
  • Rating process
  • Workplace-based assessment

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