Medical Science Educator

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 749–757 | Cite as

Performance Assessment in Medical School Curricula: an Innovative Method of Evaluating Sonographic Skills Using Ultrasound Practical Examinations

  • Jennifer L. Petty
  • Peter KondrashovEmail author
  • Jane C. Johnson
  • Tatyana Kondrashova
Original Research


Ultrasonography offers rapid, noninvasive imaging of internal anatomy for patient diagnosis, and future physicians should be competent in its use. Currently, there is no standard for assessing the sonographic skills of medical students. The purpose of the current study was to introduce ultrasound practical examinations as an innovative method of measuring the ultrasonography knowledge and proficiency of medical students. Student performance in the required ultrasound course for 3 consecutive classes of medical students was assessed by a practical examination graded by faculty and predoctoral fellows. Students were paired and instructed to find structures from a list of laboratory objectives chosen by an assigned grader. Collected data was evaluated retrospectively by analyzing grader performance and question difficulty. The class of 2018 was also given a survey to evaluate their perception of the practical examination. Overall, students performed well on the examination and liked the course and practical examination format. Significant differences were found among graders: faculty gave lower grades than predoctoral fellows, suggesting a need for standardization. Additional analysis suggested the differences between graders could be due to the laboratory objective chosen by the different graders. To eliminate grader bias and improve interrater reliability, random selection of ultrasound practical examination objectives for each student will be implemented for the class of 2020. These changes in the existing ultrasonography curriculum should improve the evaluation of student performance and student satisfaction, while providing a model for other medical education institutions to incorporate a proven ultrasound assessment method into their curricula.


Ultrasound education Practical examinations Sonographic skills 



The authors thank Kimber Barrett, DO, Iesha Draper, DO, and Mark Lanuza, MS, for their assistance with data entry and collection, and Deborah Goggin, MA, for help with the manuscript preparation. There were no external funding sources for this study.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic Affairs, Kirksville College of Osteopathic MedicineA.T. Still UniversityKirksvilleUSA
  2. 2.Anatomy Department, Kirksville College of Osteopathic MedicineA.T. Still UniversityKirksvilleUSA
  3. 3.A. T. Still Research Institute, A.T. Still UniversityKirksvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family Medicine, Preventive Medicine, and Community Health, Kirksville College of Osteopathic MedicineA.T. Still UniversityKirksvilleUSA

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