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Maximize Training Evaluation: Working Smarter Not Harder

This article was originally posted in our April 2017 Newsletter, by John Spencer, Customer Support Manager, Lead Medical Educator

Psychomotor skill evaluations have been a part of EMS education for years, and historically these skills have all been evaluated by instructors and lab preceptors. Of course, only a veteran EMS instructor possesses the ability to be able to fairly and accurately evaluate a student’s performance of any given psychomotor skill, right? Not only is this practice time consuming, but it can also limit the student’s exposure to skills practice unless the program has a budget that can support having 1 lab instructor for every student. So, what is the solution? Peer evaluation.

Peer Evaluation: What is it?
Peer evaluation uses students to give and receive feedback on one another’s performance on psychomotor skills (Pearce, Mulder & Baik, 2009). The peer evaluation process can be used to evaluate student performance on skills practice in the psychomotor skill lab, team leading and team membership during scenarios, and even for the evaluation of the Affective domain.

Benefits of using peer reviewers
Some argue that only an instructor can evaluate a student’s performance and provide the necessary feedback for growth. This old-school thought process is being challenged by programs across the nation that are now using peers to evaluate each other’s performance. Studies now show that there are actual benefits to having students evaluate each other on skill performance. These benefits include providing timely feedback on performance, development of critical thinking skills, development of problem solving skills, improved communication skills, boosting self-confidence, and promoting independent learning (Pearce et al, 2009). It will also free up instructor time allowing them to focus on the skills that do require instructor evaluation.

How does it work?
There are many different ways that you can use peer evaluators within your program. One way is to have them partner up during skill practice time and have them peer evaluate each other during skill repetition. Some programs set a required number of peer evaluations per skill that must be completed before the student can come to the instructor for a final evaluation of that skill. For example, students may be required to have 10 passing peer evaluations on endotracheal intubation before they can be evaluated by the instructor and be signed off on that skill. To prevent “pencil whipping” of skills, it has even been suggested that if a student fails an instructor evaluation of a skill after being approved by his peer, that both the student and the peer evaluator should repeat all required peer evaluations for that skill before coming back to retest with the instructor.

Another great area for peer evaluations is in the scenario class. Before running a scenario, assign some students to be peer evaluators and have them evaluate their peers for team leadership and team membership. This will free the instructor up to actually deploy and run the scenario and not have to be concerned with attempting to evaluate all of the students involved in that particular scenario at the same time.

The bottom line
We need to be working smarter, not harder. We want what is best for our students and the studies are showing that peer evaluation actually helps the students achieve success by providing more opportunity for skill repetition and receiving timely feedback. Not only is it beneficial to the students, but it also allows the instructor to focus more attention on those skills that do require an instructor evaluation. It’s a win-win situation.

If you have any questions or would like more information on the use of peer evaluation, please contact us.

Pearce, Mulder & Baik (2009). Involving students in peer review: Case studies and practical strategies for university teaching. Retrieved 24 February 2017, from