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Student midwives' perspectives on efficacy of feedback after objective structured clinical examination

02 June 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 5


Students' experience of feedback is considered an indicator of the efficacy of the assessment process. Negative experiences of feedback are unproductive in terms of the likelihood that students will act on and learn from assessment. To understand the impact of feedback on learning, this study explored the experiences of student midwives after receiving feedback following objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). Data were collected from second-year undergraduate student midwives who had recently completed OSCE, via a focus group. Students reported raised stress levels, concerns around legitimacy of feedback, and inconsistencies in the manner in which feedback was articulated. Assessment feedback in higher education should be used to empower students to become self-regulated learners. This is important for student midwives, for whom a considerable amount of learning is spent in practice. The study has implications for midwifery academics concerned with modes of assessment and quality of assessment feedback in midwifery education.

Assessment of learning and subsequent feedback is important in both theoretical and practice domains in order to ensure students understand the theory underpinning midwifery, and are able to practise competently to the standard required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). It is incumbent on both the midwifery lecturer and the practice mentor to understand the key role of feedback in ensuring student midwives learn from, and are empowered by, the assessment process (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). Feedback following assessment should be both formative and diagnostic, providing information about student achievement to teachers and learners alike. Assessment and feedback contributes to student learning at university, assists the development of evaluative skills and reflection, and is essential for employment and lifelong learning (Gaberson and Oermann, 2010).

Students are exposed to feedback in various forms, and their perception of feedback as ‘useful’ includes whether or not the feedback is relevant to the assessment and whether the feedback is perceived as positive or negative. Both positive and negative feedback may be deemed useful in certain situations (Orsmond et al, 2005), for example after an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) where the purpose is to assess competency to carry out a particular midwifery skill. In this situation, feedback on performance should be unambiguous, clearly articulated and delivered in a manner that makes absolutely clear to the student those areas requiring immediate improvement. In reality, feedback can produce unclear results, requiring further investigation on the part of students who seek to learn from feedback and improve their performance (Fry et al, 2009). When feedback is not clearly articulated, students are unable to self-regulate their learning, improve future performance and thus gain the necessary skills to practise competently.

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