7.05 Program Evaluation

Office of the Registrar

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7.05 Program Evaluation

In order to maintain and strengthen its position as a leader and innovator in medical education, Harvard Medical School is engaged in ongoing efforts to monitor, evaluate, and improve our curriculum and its impact on students. We want to ensure that specific curricular objectives are met and outcomes related to our education mission are achieved;that educational resources are allocated to maximize the educational experiences of HMS students; andthat HMS students receive professional training that prepares them not only for post-graduate training and medical licensure but also for leadership in their respective fields.

In addition, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the body that accredits medical schools, expects that every medical school will engage in ongoing assessment of its curriculum, use the information collected for purposes of continuous improvement, and participate in the community of scholars by sharing what has been learned.

Student Assessment Database

Responsibility for monitoring and evaluating HMS’s education programs lies with the HMS Center for Evaluation (HMSCE). In order to facilitate its review work, beginning in 2010, the Center for Evaluation aggregates into a restricted-access database certain student data (Aggregated Student Data) that HMS routinely acquires or generates in the ordinary course of its educational operations. The Aggregated Student Data are drawn from voluntary disclosures students have made in the admissions process as well as assessment and evaluation data collected in the course of students’ required activities while enrolled at HMS. Examples of admissions data HMSCE may aggregate include (but are not limited to) gender, ethnicity, parents’ educational attainment, educational institutions attended, fields of concentration, and degrees received. Examples of student assessment data subject to aggregation include (but are not limited to) test/examscores, faculty and preceptor ratings, clinical skills and other performance-based activities, course and clerkship grades and evaluations, and USMLE scores. Upon entry into the HMSCE database, the Aggregated Student Data will be stripped of personally identifiable information: a randomly unique identifier will enable HMSCE reviewers to tie all of a given student’s data together for longitudinal review, but reviewers will not be in a position to identify any student based on the information given.

While the primary goal of this data collection is internal assessment of academic programs, the Aggregated Student Data also may form the basis for professional publications and scholarly presentations at professional meetings by HMS faculty. HMS policy (as reviewed and approved by the HMS Committee on Human Subjects; see Section 10.04) provides that student data may be used for purposes of educational scholarship, provided that the identity of individual students is not possible to ascertain. When reported, any research involving the Aggregated Student Data (which, as noted above, HMSCE will already take steps to de-identify) will use only aggregate student information to maintain strict confidentiality.

Separate review by the HMS Committee on Human Subjects (Section 10.04) is required for all individual research projects that rely on the use of the Aggregated Student Data, whether funded or unfunded. In addition, this policy covers only admissions data voluntarily supplied by all applicants and data drawn from educational activities required of enrolled HMS students. If a researcher should request or desire additional data, then the HMS Committee on Human Subjects will consider the need for informed consent from the relevant students. Access to the Aggregated Student data is restricted to the HMSCE. Faculty who desire to utilize a subset of the data for educational or research purposes, and who have gained prior IRB approval, must request the data from the HMSCE.

Student Evaluation of Core Courses and Clerkships

All students are expected to complete evaluations for each of the required courses and clerkships that they complete. Beginning in AY11, grades in core courses and clerkships will not be available to students until they have completed the Center for Evaluation online course or clerkship evaluation for the course or clerkship just completed.

Policy on Unprofessional Student Comments in Course Surveys

Harvard Medical School regularly solicits student feedback on various aspects of the curriculum in order to improve the educational experience for all students. To that end, we ask that, for all core courses, students provide feedback that is candid, constructive, and critical. This is done via an electronic course survey process that ensures complete confidentiality, and all course surveys and accompanying comments are withheld from course directors until after the course grades have been submitted to the Registrar.

In certain rare cases, however, comments from students cross a clear line from critical to offensive, while possessing no redeeming constructive value. These comments are made available to the individual faculty member as well as a number of educational professionals at HMS, including the chair of the instructor’s appointing department, and hence unprofessional comments have the potential to inflict real harm on an individual faculty member, which violates a key tenet of the medical profession. For this reason, the HMS Curriculum Committee voted to establish a process that will ensure the continued integrity and confidentiality of the course survey process while providing an outlet to address the rare abuses that occur within the system.

In order to achieve this goal, a joint committee comprised of three students and two Academic Society Masters will be established to review any comment on a course survey deemed to be unprofessional by a course director, instructor, or official in the Center for Evaluation. To ensure that students on this committee represent the will of the student body, student members of the committee will be either elected student representatives to the Curriculum Committee or other students who hold elective office, e.g., the Student Council Executive Committee. If a majority of the committee agrees that the comment does indeed constitute unprofessional conduct, the Center for Evaluation will authorize the HMS Information Technology department to override the confidentiality protections and identify the responsible student. This information will be provided exclusively to the student’s academic society master, who will determine the remediation approach most helpful to the student. The comment will also be redacted from the course survey record.  

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