Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Student perceptions of evaluation in undergraduate medical education: A qualitative study from one medical school

Sarah Schiekirka1, Deborah Reinhardt1, Susanne Heim2, Götz Fabry3, Tobias Pukrop4, Sven Anders5 and Tobias Raupach1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Cardiology and Pneumology, University Hospital Göttingen, D-37099, Göttingen, Germany

2 Department of Medical Psychology and Sociology, Georg-August University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

3 Department of Medical Psychology, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

4 Department of Haematology and Oncology, University Hospital Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

5 Department of Legal Medicine, University Medical Centre Hamburg Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:45  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-45

Published: 22 June 2012



Evaluation is an integral part of medical education. Despite a wide use of various evaluation tools, little is known about student perceptions regarding the purpose and desired consequences of evaluation. Such knowledge is important to facilitate interpretation of evaluation results. The aims of this study were to elicit student views on the purpose of evaluation, indicators of teaching quality, evaluation tools and possible consequences drawn from evaluation data.


This qualitative study involved 17 undergraduate medical students in Years 3 and 4 participating in 3 focus group interviews. Content analysis was conducted by two different researchers.


Evaluation was viewed as a means to facilitate improvements within medical education. Teaching quality was believed to be dependent on content, process, teacher and student characteristics as well as learning outcome, with an emphasis on the latter. Students preferred online evaluations over paper-and-pencil forms and suggested circulating results among all faculty and students. Students strongly favoured the allocation of rewards and incentives for good teaching to individual teachers.


In addition to assessing structural aspects of teaching, evaluation tools need to adequately address learning outcome. The use of reliable and valid evaluation methods is a prerequisite for resource allocation to individual teachers based on evaluation results.

Undergraduate medical education; Evaluation; Purpose; Consequence; Learning outcome