The effect of assessments on student motivation for learning and its outcomes in health professions education: A review

Rashmi A. Kusurkar, Cesar Orsini, Sunia Somra, Anthony R. Artino Jr, Hester E. M. Daelmans, Linda J. Schoonmade, Cees P. M. van der Vleuten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Purpose: In health professions education (HPE) the effect of assessments on student motivation for learning and its consequences have been largely neglected. This is problematic because assessments can hamper motivation and psychological well-being. The research questions guiding this review were: How do assessments affect student motivation for learning in HPE? What outcomes does this lead to in which contexts?

Method: In October 2020, the authors searched PubMed, Embase, APA PsycInfo, ERIC, CINAHL, and Web of Science Core Collection for “assessments” AND “motivation” AND “health professions education/students.” Empirical papers or literature reviews investigating the effect of assessments on student motivation for learning in HPE using quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods from January 1, 2010–October 29, 2020, were included. The authors chose the realist synthesis method for data analysis to study the intended and unintended consequences of this complex topic. Assessments were identified as stimulating autonomous or controlled motivation using sensitizing concepts from self-determination theory and data on context-mechanism-outcome were extracted.

Results: Twenty-four of 15,291 articles were ultimately included. Assessments stimulating controlled motivation seemed to have negative outcomes. An example of an assessment that stimulates controlled motivation is one that focuses on factual knowledge (context), which encourages studying only for the assessment (mechanism) and results in surface learning (outcome). Assessments stimulating autonomous motivation seemed to have positive outcomes. An example of an assessment that stimulates autonomous motivation is one that is fun (context), which through active learning (mechanism) leads to higher effort and better connection with the material (outcome).

Conclusions: These findings indicate that students strategically learned what was expected to appear in assessments at the expense of what was needed in practice. Therefore, health professions educators should rethink their assessment philosophy and practices and introduce assessments that are relevant to professional practice and stimulate genuine interest in the content.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1092
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date4 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023

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