Harvard Macy Programs

A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education

Offered Annually in Boston, MA
Next Program:
March 6-11, 2016
Application Deadline:
November 18, 2015

Program Directors:

Program Objectives More and more, institutions are heeding the clarion call to become “data-driven” organizations. Yet their good intentions to collect and act upon assessment data fall flat if they lack a sound strategy to maximize their utility and institutional impact. The Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education program provides solutions to this institutional dilemma.

While systems thinking has yet to be widely applied to educational models, it has become a serious focus of attention for accreditation bodies worldwide. In this program participants learn how to design assessment strategies that collect valuable student, faculty and course data, while insuring that mechanisms are in place to synthesize, interpret, and direct that information to appropriate stakeholders for decision making and process improvement.

This program addresses information management models that will:
  • Identify and monitor the function of critical program processes and intermediate outcomes
  • Create feedback loops to insure that relevant assessment data are directed to individuals or groups positioned to make necessary adjustments
  • Have structures to gather data from disparate sources for analysis and interpretation in the context of the institution’s overall goals.

This is a valuable program for anyone charged with overseeing assessment at the student, program, or institutional level. It is a must for those preparing for accreditation or review.

Program Description The program's formal curriculum will address multiple aspects of academic assessment: learning and acquisition of competencies, teaching, education effort and scholarship, program efficacy and institutional alignment of resources and supports to further educational missions. Participant will leave the program prepared to develop and lead effective and comprehensive assessment efforts at their home institutions.

Topics to be addressed include:
  • Assessment theory and methodology: the rationales underlying best practices for program and institutional accreditation
  • Benefits and shortcomings of various assessment approaches
  • Development of relevant evaluation criteria for courses, programs, and institutions
  • Translation of educational goals into meaningful, measurable outcomes
  • Using an outcomes logic model to guide assessment planning
  • Design of institutional assessment systems

The program will employ a variety of teaching formats, including topic presentations, large-group case discussions, small-group literature analysis, collaborative work groups, and expert panel discussions. In addition, participants will also have the opportunity to have one on one consultations with leaders in the assessment field.


“This new infusion of knowledge has broadened my perspectives and stimulated new creative thoughts. I am forever changed.”

Lillian Nanney, Ph.D., Director of Teaching Academy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center


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