A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education

Offered Annually in Boston, MA

Next Course:
March 18 - 23, 2018

Course Brochure: course brochure PDF

Application Deadline:
November 15, 2017



Program Directors:

Thomas Aretz, MD
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Elizabeth Armstrong, PhD
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Constance Bowe, MD
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Louis Pangaro, MD

Learning 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.

The Harvard Macy Institute’s A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education is designed to encourage participants to apply systems thinking in designing assessment programs to support the continuous quality improvement of students/trainees, faculty, and curricula at their academic health science institutions. The program incorporates multiple pedagogical methods, including interactive presentations, case discussions, small group journal clubs, institutional planning groups, selectives (focused mini-sessions/workshops on assessment tools and approaches), and consultations with faculty experts. During this intensive 6-day program, educators and administrators from diverse health science disciplines will be introduced to key concepts from system theory, best practices in educational assessment, and mini-workshops focused on specific assessment approaches. Throughout the program, participants will also have an opportunity to apply systems principles in case discussions depicting problematic assessment situations and to plan an assessment/evaluation design to implement at their home institution. Course 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.

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

    • Core concepts from systems theory will be presented and discussed with participants (Knowledge) • In small group literature discussions (journal clubs) and in large group case discussions (portraying problematic educational situations), systems principles will be applied to achieve academic ‘desired outcomes’ and to inform quality improvement decisions (competency) • In small ‘Institutional Planning’ groups meeting throughout the course, participants will view their academic institutions from a ‘systems perspective’ and design an assessment program that optimizes the value of data obtained to inform continuous improvement for learners, faculty and/or the academic programs (competency) • ‘Selective’ (focused mini-workshops) and expert consultations will be available to participants to strategize the implementation of a systems approach to assessment in the context of their home institutions (competency) • At the conclusion of the program, all participants will be asked to create an Action Plan that describes specific efforts they will make to improve some aspect of assessment at their home institution; participants are encouraged to share their progress on their projects on HMI website available to alumni of the program (competency -> leading to enhanced performance) • Additionally, applications to the program by teams of individuals working on an assessment/evaluation project from the same institution are encouraged to apply to ensure that they may be team efforts to support educational change we are seeking.

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.



The Harvard Medical School is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Harvard Medical School designates this live activity for a maximum of 35.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada recognizes conferences and workshops held outside of Canada that are developed by a university, academy, hospital, specialty society or college as accredited group learning activities. Through an agreement between the American Medical Association and the European Union of Medical Specialists, physicians may convert AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ to an equivalent number of European CME Credits® (ECMECs®).

Harvard Medical School (HMS) adheres to all ACCME Essential Areas, Standards, and Policies. It is HMS’s policy that those who have influenced the content of a CME activity (e.g., planners, faculty, authors, reviewers, and others) disclose all relevant financial relationships with commercial entities so that HMS may identify and resolve any conflicts of interest prior to the activity. These disclosures will be provided in the activity materials along with disclosure of any commercial support received for the activity. Additionally, faculty members have been instructed to disclose any limitations of data and unlabeled or investigational uses of products during their presentations.

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Scholar Experience

Harvard Macy Tweets

harvardmacy Our #hmichat on Communities of Practice in #MedEd continues this morning at 9a EST with @AFornari1 - join us! #hmieducators #hmiassessment pic.twitter.com/kPT5PkYpNM
12:17PM Jul 06
harvardmacy Free resource for creating unique presentation slides via @Whole_Patients #HMIeducators #HMIassessment twitter.com/whole_patients/status/864823228639870976
01:43PM May 17
harvardmacy Check out this @IAMSE Web Seminar Series on #remiediation in #meded - this week is about #systems #hmiassessment - bit.ly/2kZvhBv pic.twitter.com/2Xm3Has2bq
08:01PM Mar 13
harvardmacy What a great week! Welcoming our newest #hmiassessment 2017 scholars to our alumni community as they return home to enact systems change! pic.twitter.com/uYFcV6hhyH
01:23PM Mar 13
harvardmacy The May 3rd #HMIchat will focus on #assessment in #MedEd & #HPE - facilitated by #HMIassessment faculty including @AmjLinn & @Brent_Thoma pic.twitter.com/Fte8unsiAR
06:30PM Mar 10