Instruments for measuring meaningful learning in healthcare students: a systematic psychometric review

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Abstract

Aim.

To identify, evaluate and describe the psychometric properties of instruments that measure learning outcomes in healthcare students.

Background.

Meaningful learning is an active process that enables a wider and deeper understanding of concepts. It is the result of an interaction between new and prior knowledge and produces a long-standing change in knowledge and skills. In the field of education, validated and reliable instruments for assessing meaningful learning are needed.

Design.

A psychometric systematic review.

Data sources.

MEDLINE CINAHL, SCOPUS, ERIC, Cochrane Library, Psychology & Behavioural Sciences Collection Database from 1990–December 2013.

Review method.

Using pre-determined inclusion criteria, three reviewers independently identified studies for full-text review. Then they extracted data for quality appraisal and graded instrument validity using the Consensus-based Standards for the selection of the health status Measurement INstruments checklist and the Psychometric Grading Framework.

Results.

Of the 57 studies identified for full-text review, 16 met the inclusion criteria and 13 different instruments were assessed. Following quality assessment, only one instrument was considered of good quality but it measured meaningful learning only in part; the others were either fair or poor. The Psychometric Grading Framework indicated that one instrument was weak, while the others were very weak. No instrument displayed adequate validity.

Conclusions.

The systematic review produced a synthesis of the psychometric properties of tools that measure learning outcomes in students of healthcare disciplines. Measuring learning outcomes is very important when educating health professionals. The identified tools may constitute a starting point for the development of other assessment tools.

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