Aligning assessment with the curriculum: identifying faculty’s innovative methods


  • Maria V L De Vasconcelos,

  • Renato S Rodarte,

  • Paulo M C Júnior

Maria V L de Vasconcelos, Rua São Francisco de Assis 573, Jatiúca, Maceió, Alagoas CEP 57035-680, Brazil. Tel: 00 55 82 3231 5596; Fax: 00 55 82 3221 2501; E-mail:

Context and setting

Our College of Medicine implemented a new curriculum in 2006 following the release in 2001 of the National Curricula Guidelines from the Ministry of Education of Brazil. These guidelines establish a core of comprehensive competences, such as those involved in patient care, health care management, communication, decision-making and leadership skills, and recommend the use of student-centred methods, integration of content and learning activities, as well as early clinical experiences and increased community-based services.

Why the idea was necessary

Although the new curriculum had been implemented in our institution, student assessment was still managed by departments and was not aligned with the new integrated curriculum. In addition, new assessment strategies and procedures had to be developed to test students’ achievements related to educational objectives, such as clinical and communication skills, clinical reasoning, decision-making skills and professionalism. In order to meet the objective of reorganising the student assessment system so that it could be aligned with the new curriculum, we surveyed faculty members with the aim of identifying: (i) the current state of the art in student assessment, and (ii) individual faculty members who might already be using assessment methods suitable to the new curriculum.

What was done

We designed a descriptive cross-sectional survey study and prepared a questionnaire to identify both the traditional assessment methods in use and those that might be regarded as already aligned with the knowledge, skills and attitudes pertaining to the new curriculum. The questionnaire was piloted and revised, and then administered as an attachment to the faculty listserv. We also individually e-mailed faculty members with clarifying information.

Evaluation of results and impact

We received 39 out of 125 possible responses to the questionnaire and e-mail inquiry. This enabled us to identify a group of eight of the 39 faculty members who appeared to already be using innovative assessment methods spontaneously. They reported the use of portfolios, role-play activities, student self-assessment, 360-degree evaluation, formative assessment, cognitive tests integrating basic and clinical science, direct observation of student activities and behaviour with checklists, and peer assessment approaches. These faculty members were therefore regarded as ‘found pilots’ who could act as agents of change to assist in aligning the assessment system with the new curriculum. Focusing on and investing further in this group is assumed to be an attractive and effective strategy for the dissemination and systematisation of innovative assessment methods throughout the faculty. This might therefore allow the successful aligning of assessment strategies with the new curriculum objectives and have a positive impact on the institution’s educational activities.