Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 183-194

First online:

Toward meaningful evaluation of medical trainees: the influence of participants’ perceptions of the process

  • Christopher J. WatlingAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical Neurological Sciences, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western OntarioLondon Health Sciences Centre, Victoria Hospital Email author 
  • , Lorelei LingardAffiliated withCentre for Education Research and Innovation, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario

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An essential goal of evaluation is to foster learning. Across the medical education spectrum, evaluation of clinical performance is dominated by subjective feedback to learners based on observation by expert supervisors. Research in non-medical settings has suggested that participants’ perceptions of evaluation processes exert considerable influence over whether the feedback they receive actually facilitates learning, but similar research on perceptions of feedback in the medical setting has been limited. In this review, we examine the literature on recipient perceptions of feedback and how those perceptions influence the contribution that feedback makes to their learning. A focused exploration of relevant work on this subject in higher education and industrial psychology settings is followed by a detailed examination of available research on perceptions of evaluation processes in medical settings, encompassing both trainee and evaluator perspectives. We conclude that recipients’ and evaluators’ perceptions of an evaluation process profoundly affect the usefulness of the evaluation and the extent to which it achieves its goals. Attempts to improve evaluation processes cannot, therefore, be limited to assessment tool modification driven by reliability and validity concerns, but must also take account of the critical issue of feedback reception and the factors that influence it. Given the unique context of clinical performance evaluation in medicine, a research agenda is required that seeks to more fully understand the complexity of the processes of giving, receiving, interpreting, and using feedback as a basis for real progress toward meaningful evaluation.


Evaluation Feedback Medical students Perceptions Residents