Frame-of-Reference Training: Establishing Reliable Assessment of Teaching Effectiveness

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Frame-of-reference (FOR) training has been used successfully to teach faculty how to produce accurate and reliable workplace-based ratings when assessing a performance. We engaged 21 Harvard Medical School faculty members in our pilot and implementation studies to determine the effectiveness of using FOR training to assess health professionals' teaching performances.


All faculty were novices at rating their peers' teaching effectiveness. Before FOR training, we asked participants to evaluate a recorded lecture using a criterion-based peer assessment of medical lecturing instrument. At the start of training, we discussed the instrument and emphasized its precise behavioral standards. During training, participants practiced rating lectures and received immediate feedback on how well they categorized and scored performances as compared with expert-derived scores of the same lectures. At the conclusion of the training, we asked participants to rate a post-training recorded lecture to determine agreement with the experts' scores.


Participants and experts had greater rating agreement for the post-training lecture compared with the pretraining lecture. Through this investigation, we determined that FOR training is a feasible method to teach faculty how to accurately and reliably assess medical lectures.


Medical school instructors and continuing education presenters should have the opportunity to be observed and receive feedback from trained peer observers. Our results show that it is possible to use FOR rater training to teach peer observers how to accurately rate medical lectures. The process is time efficient and offers the prospect for assessment and feedback beyond traditional learner evaluation of instruction.

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