Assessing sociology and psychology in UK undergraduate medical education: Square peg in a round hole?

Jeni Harden, Tracey Collett, Kathleen Kendall, Simon Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Attention has turned in recent years to the broader inclusion of sociology and psychology in medical curricula. Despite this, there is limited published evidence about how best to assess these subjects. This lack of evidence is significant given that most medical schools are likely to include some form of assessment of sociology and psychology, and that sociology and psychology are included in areas examined in admissions tests and in licensing exams.

Methods: We ran three one day workshops in the UK (London, Edinburgh and Manchester, June – July 2019), to consult with educators involved in sociology and psychology teaching in medicine on: what methods are being used to assess sociology and psychology in UK undergraduate medical education, and the challenges and opportunities experienced. 36 participants attended the workshops, representing 19 of the 33 UK medical schools. Following the workshops, we collated the notes and presentations in order to develop a summary of current assessment practices and synthesis of the main themes identified.

Results: There were many examples of good practice and development of innovative assessments, particularly in the early years of the programmes. At the same time, participants raised several challenges and tensions in relation to the method, timing, and placement of sociology and psychology assessment. Participants reported that many of these issues related to dominant assessment cultures in medical education. As a result, assessing sociology and psychology in medicine can seem like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Solutions to these challenges may require wider changes to assessment practices and cultures.

Conclusion: The challenges shared by participants are evident; nonetheless, there are important opportunities. Our participants were unanimous in their desire to become involved in dialogue and consultation about assessment. This article, reporting on the views of UK SBS educators, is a positive step towards creating a more robust evidence base upon which to engage in these conversations and inform best practice in sociology and psychology assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Medical education
  • Assessment
  • Social and behavioural sciences


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