Peer-assessment within Dental Education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Formative assessment with its feedback component has a powerful effect on students’ learning.
Aim: This research aimed to appraise how teaching and assessment practices were organised in dental undergraduate teaching institutions to inform the development and piloting of a novel peer-assessment protocol for undergraduate dental students’ pre-clinical competence and clinical performance. Subsequently, the protocol’s utility as a framework for immediate dialogic peer-feedback to boost students’ academic learning and achievement outcomes as well as their reflective skills, was evaluated.
Materials and methods: An initial review of the literature on peer-assessment together with a scrutiny of the King’s College London Dental Institute undergraduate curriculum and assessment practices of 39 selected international dental teaching institutions was undertaken. This underpinned the development of a novel longitudinal, formative and structured peer-assessment protocol based on traditional Workplace-Based Assessment forms to be used as a framework for immediate peer-feedback and self-reflection. Subsequently, the protocol was piloted and later implemented in a larger trained sample to judge its utility towards fostering students’ academic achievements and reflective skills. Thus, following a baseline quantitative reflection skills evaluation, volunteer students assessed their peers’ pre-clinical competence (BDS year-2) and clinical performance (BDS year-5) across the whole academic year. Students’ previous end-of-year examination and baseline reflection skills scores from the study and control groups (those who did and did not exercise the peer-assessment protocol, respectively) were compared to their current end-of-year examination marks and a second reflection skills evaluation score. Students’ feedback narratives and their reasons to participate or not in the peer-assessment protocol, were also analysed.
Results and Discussion: Peer-assessment was only used by 19% of the surveyed dental schools. Both pre-clinical and clinical peer-assessment participating students demonstrated a reliable ability to identify those domains where they performed better as well as those which needed improvement. They also detected progress over time. Additionally, students’ peer-assessment scores were positively correlated to their end-of-year examination. Inasmuch as students exercised ten or more peer-assessment encounters, they significantly increased their higher order thinking skills and final examination scores. Peer-feedback narratives from pre-clinical and clinical students differed in their content and sign, but corresponded in their specificity. Previous negative feedback experiences played a notable role in students deciding whether to participate or not.
Conclusions: Longitudinal (≥10 encounters), formative and structured peer-assessment and peer-feedback to encourage self-reflection of undergraduate dental students’ pre-clinical and clinical skills, can reliably help them to improve their academic achievement and develop higher order thinking skills.
Date of Award1 Nov 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King´s College London, Reino Unido

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