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Teaching the Skill of Self-Assessment

Most medical educators agree that it’s essential for residents and students to learn how to accurately self-assess their own clinical skills. But how can you teach this complex skill in the midst of a busy clinical schedule? Elizabeth Hengstebeck, DO, chair and associate professor of family medicine at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, has recently added self-assessment training to the doctoring curriculum at her college and now offers regular opportunities to her students for practicing meaningful self-assessment.

In a new audio interview with Dr Dennis Baker, PhD, the editor of Teaching Physician, Dr Hengstebeck shares her methods for teaching her students how to self-assess their own performance.

Dennis Baker: Why did you feel that it is important to incorporate the skill of self-assessment into the doctoring curriculum?

Elizabeth Hengstebeck: Like any other skill, it is essential that learners practice self-assessment in order to become proficient in it. As educators, it is vital that we recognize the importance of helping learners master this skill in order for them to ultimately become self-directed, self-critical, lifelong learners.

Dennis Baker: Can you give us an example that illustrates this process?

Elizabeth Hengstebeck: Students were required to review their recorded videos following a standardized patient encounter several times during each semester. I really liked to use this approach because it gave the learners a unique experience of being the observer of the event rather than the participant. In other words, students could step out of themselves and view the interaction more objectively. For many of the students, it may have been the first time that they were able to see themselves as their future patients may see them.

Dennis Baker: Thinking back about how you were teaching students as a preceptor in your private office setting, what are some strategies you would now use to help students develop their self-assessment skills?

Elizabeth Hengstebeck: I encourage each student to become an active participant in the feedback process. So a few days prior to a feedback session, I would guide a student by asking him to identify one or two areas that he feels he is performing well and one or two areas where he would like to improve. This way I could ensure that the feedback that I give is focused and meaningful to him. Using this format lends itself to a feedback session that is positive and productive because it provides the student with an opportunity to be the first one to identify a problem area or an area of weakness. In essence, the student becomes an active partner in the feedback process instead of a passive one.


Dr Hengstebeck shares other tips during the interview, including:

  • How she trains her faculty to use a simple framework for feedback sessions
  • What types of self-assessment activities are incorporated into two years of doctoring curriculum
  • Strategies for preceptors in a private practice to develop self-assessment skills for their students

Log in to hear the entire interview and find more practical ways to teach the skill of self-assessment to learners. You can also take a look at these related pages on TeachingPhysician.org: