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Introduction: Although formative feedback is widely recognized as an essential aid to student learning, there is little evidence regarding effective ways of providing formative feedback on structured clinical exams. This study compares students’ perceptions of immediate, face-to-face feedback with delayed, written on-line faculty feedback on their Obstetrics and Gynecology medical student clerkship patient-based assessment (PBA) at the University of Iowa.

Methods: 163 third year medical students performed the PBA between October 2009-10. Students were assigned to immediate face-to-face or delayed, written on-line feedback. Students were then invited to participate in an anonymous web-based survey. Independent samples t-tests were used to determine whether the mean differences between the groups in ratings of commonly accepted characteristics of effective feedback were statistically significant.

Results: 97 students responded to the survey. Of the 84 who responded to the questions about feedback quality (face-to-face feedback n=40, web-based feedback n=44), face-to-face feedback generally scored higher than web-based feedback, and received significantly higher ratings in 9 of 11 variables measured (p ≤ 0.05). Qualitative comments indicated preference for two-way interaction with evaluators.

Conclusion: Students rate immediate face-to-face feedback more beneficial than delayed, web-based written feedback on a patient-based assessment.


education, medical, educational measurement, delayed feedback, formative feedback, patient-based assessment

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Financial Disclosure

The authors report no conflict of interest.


Copyright © Marygrace Elson, Rick D. Axelson, 2012.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.