Published: 2017-06-24

Self-assessment: how do third year medical students rate their performance during problem-based learning?

Sehlule Vuma, Bidyadhar Sa


Background: Problem-based learning (PBL) emphasizes students’ self-directed learning. This requires students to monitor their own learning.  When students enter medical school however, they do not seem to have self-monitoring skills and these need to be developed. Self-assessment exercises are useful in developing these skills. This paper emphasizes the importance of training in self-assessment during PBL. Objective was to describe third-year medical students’ self-assessment of their performance during PBL and correlate their scores with tutors’ scores, and their scores in a written progressive disclosure questions (PDQ) examination

Methods: Using the same rubric used for students’ evaluation by tutors, students scored their activities during PBL sessions. Their scores were compared with the tutor’s scores. Their scores for cognitive skills were further compared with their scores in a PDQ examination.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the tutor and students’ scores. Low-achieving students (in the PDQ) scored themselves higher than high-achieving students. Self-assessment scores did not predict performance in the PDQ.

Conclusions: Perhaps the high-achievers are more critical of themselves which drives them to work harder. Low-achieving students could be awarding themselves scores they wish to obtain and not what they deserve. They may also not understand the assessment criteria. This paper emphasizes the importance of self-assessment exercises, and the need to guide students in learning to assess themselves accurately so they may be better able to monitor their learning.


Cognitive, Problem-based learning, Self-assessment, Self-monitoring

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