Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 791–812

Towards effective evaluation and reform in medical education: a cognitive and learning sciences perspective

  • Vimla L. Patel
  • Nicole A. Yoskowitz
  • Jose F. Arocha

DOI: 10.1007/s10459-007-9091-1

Cite this article as:
Patel, V.L., Yoskowitz, N.A. & Arocha, J.F. Adv in Health Sci Educ (2009) 14: 791. doi:10.1007/s10459-007-9091-1


Health professions education is dealing with major transformations in light of the changing nature of the health care delivery system, including the use of technology for “just in time” delivery of care, evidence-based practice, personalized medical care and learning, as health professionals strive to integrate biomedical advances and clinical practice. This has forced the medical education community to reassess the current teaching and learning practices and more importantly, the evaluation of the medical education process. There have been recent advances in cognitive and learning sciences theories, some of which can inform medical educators about best teaching and learning practices and their impact on the evaluation process. An understanding of these theories provides a sound rationale for choosing specific instructional strategies and choosing evaluation measures that assess the curricular objectives. The review begins with an overview of evaluation and assessment in education, followed by an overview of major theories from the cognitive and learning sciences. Next, the role of cognitive and learning sciences theories in informing the process of medical education evaluation is discussed, including its impact on student learning, performance and professional competence, as well as recommendations for reform of medical curricula based on such theories. The paper continues with the elaboration of current trends in health sciences education, particularly medical education, and available evidence for the impact on student learning and performance as well as areas where more research is needed.


Medical education Evaluation Assessment Clinical competence Cognitive science Learning science 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vimla L. Patel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nicole A. Yoskowitz
    • 3
  • Jose F. Arocha
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Basic Medical SciencesThe University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, Arizona Biomedical CollaborativePhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Center for Decision Making and Cognition, Department of Biomedical Informatics, Ira Fulton School of EngineeringArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Laboratory of Decision Making and Cognition, Department of Biomedical InformaticsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Studies and GerontologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada