The mechanism of impact of summative assessment on medical students' learning

Francois Cilliers, Lambertus Schuwirth, H.J. Adendorff, N Herman, Cees Van der Vleuten

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    98 Citations (Scopus)


    It has become axiomatic that assessment impacts powerfully on student learning, but there is a surprising dearth of research on how. This study explored the mechanism of impact of summative assessment on the process of learning of theory in higher education. Individual, in-depth interviews were conducted with medical students and analyzed qualitatively. The impact of assessment on learning was mediated through various determinants of action. Respondents' learning behaviour was influenced by: appraising the impact of assessment; appraising their learning response; their perceptions of agency; and contextual factors. This study adds to scant extant evidence and proposes a mechanism to explain this impact. It should help enhance the use of assessment as a tool to augment learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)695-715
    Number of pages21
    JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


    • Assessment
    • Determinants of action
    • Learning
    • Mechanism of impact


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