KUSM-W Volunteer Faculty/Preceptor
The site dedicated to assisting the nearly 1,000 KUSM-W community teachers
The University of Kansas School of Medicine - Wichita

Evaluating Learners

Evaluation provides an assessment of how well the learner has meet the objectives of the course. It is quite different from feedback in its intent and approach.

Feedback occurs as a continuous process DURING the course and spontaneously as “teaching moments” arise. Feedback aims to answer the questions:

Evaluation takes place at the end of the course (sometimes also at the mid-course or at other pre-specified times) and aims to determine

Evaluation is a formal process, takes place at predetermined times, and uses established documents or processes to compare the student to a predetermined standard.

Most preceptor evaluations consist of forms designed to record:

The performance aspects often ask you to score the student and should provide an explanation of the expected range of scores.

e.g. Scoring the student’s ability to acquire a relevant focused history on a 1-5 scale where 3 is the level expected of a student at this level.

Call the course director if you have ANY uncertainties about scoring, especially what is the “normal” range or what constitutes a valid score for an individual student. The course director can struggle to know what a comment like "great student" means but can use insights such as "tactful and persistant in questoining patients" or "takes a thorough history but needs help in being more efficient" in guiding students. Try to include both positives and areas for improvement.

The subjective comments section allows you to elaborate on the numerical score by explaining specific strengths or weaknesses that influenced the score. It also allows you to describe how the student functioned in the practice environment. Although by the end of the course, you may have developed a strong personal relationship with the student or resident, your comments should focus on specific professional behaviors and attributes – the course director can struggle to use a comment like “great guy (or gal)!”

Some courses are experimenting with the RIME approach as an alternative to the numerical (Likert) scale for assessing learners. The RIME system aims to avoid the problems over assigning a number to the learner’s performance by asking you to describe how the learner functions on a scale from just gathering data to a sophisticated learner.

R eporter: can collect and report pertinent data
I nterpreter: can interpret and integrate data from history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing to develop a problem list and prioritized differential diagnosis
M anager: can select the most appropriate diagnostic and treatment strategies for the patient.
E ducator: can identify and address gaps in knowledge.

Pearls for Preceptor Evaluations:

Many preceptors worry a lot about evaluation. This can lead to problems in completing the task – or delaying it in the hope the medical school will forget (or stop “reminding” that it is due!) Experienced preceptors suggest:

Remember your evaluation is part of the overall grade. It is very important as it concerns how the learner performed in your practice environment, but many other evaluations are conducted on most students and residents. The course director uses your input along with the input from other teachers, classroom performance, class projects, case presentations, and written examinations. The course director looks for trends across these various evaluations and how the learner was assessed from different perspectives and by different individuals. Although your evaluations are essential, you are not alone – many other factors are considered in determining grades!

For those who like mnemonics to remember the key features of evaluation, we found the GRADE strategy.

G et ready. Review objectives and forms. Ask for help if unsure of process
R eview expectations and timing of evaluations with learner (“no surprises”)
A ssess learner regularly and keep notes. Give regular feedback
D iscuss progress and ensure data are being collected during rotation
E valuation paperwork completed promptly and accurately

The bottom line on evaluation: A good evaluation summarizes the learner’s status at the end of the course. It enables the learner and his/her advisors to continue his/her development as a physician. Be honest and objective in your evaluations. Deficiencies will show up sooner or later. The earlier they are detected and addressed in medical education the better – your third year student will be the admitting intern in less than 24 months!

Do not hesitate to discuss concerns about students or how you do evaluations with the course director.

If you think your evaluation is harsh or has a lot of negatives, the reason may not be that “I am just a harsh evaluator” or even “I am not doing this correctly” consider:

Conversely, if all your evaluations are superior and you seem to get only the very best students or residents, consider:


GoalInformation for improvement "Coaching"Establishing grade, delineating status at end of experience

When?Immediate, as soon as possible after observed eventScheduled at end of course (also possibly at other times)

Where?On site, most convenient private locationOffice, secure private location

How?Dialogue, feedback "sandwich"Predominantly written assessments using numerical (Likert) or descriptive (RIME) scales. Can involve interview

Preceptor's RoleAdvisor, mentor, coachFormal assessor

image of faculty and resident

Site development made possible in part by an HRSA grant.

Introduction | Getting ready to teach | Orienting students
Strategies for teaching in a busy practice | The one-minute preceptor | Using active observation
Teaching Clinical Skills | Feedback | Giving Short Talks on the Run
Teaching at the bedside | Evidence-based medicine | Evaluating learners
The unwritten curriculum | When things go wrong | Giving talks and lectures
PDA Resources for Teaching | FAQs about community based teaching

Getting ready to teach
Orienting students
 starting well

Strategies for teaching in
 a busy practice

The one-minute preceptor
 tools for effective teaching
 in limited time

Using active observation
 not just show and tell

Teaching Clinical Skills
 beyond "see one, do one"

 the under used "power tool"

Giving Short Talks on the Run
 short focused didactics that are
 more powerful than lectures

Teaching at the bedside
 and on hospital rounds

Evidence-based medicine
Evaluating learners
The unwritten curriculum
When things go wrong
Giving talks and lectures
PDA Resources for Teaching
FAQs about community
 based teaching