Background: Identification and assessment of professional competencies for medical students is challenging. We have recently developed an instrument for assessing the essential professional competencies for medical students in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) programs by PBL tutors. This study aims to evaluate the reliability and validity of professional competency scores of medical students using this instrument in PBL tutorials. Methods: Each group of seven to eight students in PBL tutorials (Year 2, n = 46) were assessed independently by two faculty members. Each tutor assessed students in his/her group every five weeks on four occasions. The instrument consists of ten items, which measure three main competency domains: interpersonal, cognitive and professional behavior. Each item is scored using a five-point Likert scale (1 = poor, 5 = exceptional). Reliability of professional competencies scores was calculated using G-theory with raters nested in occasions. Furthermore, criterion-related validity was measured by testing the correlations with students’ scores in written examination. Results: The overall generalizability coefficient (G) of the professional competency scores was 0.80. Students’ professional competencies scores (universe scores) accounted for 27% of the total variance across all score comparisons. The variance due to occasions accounted for 10%, while the student-occasion interaction was zero. The variance due to raters to occasions represented 8% of the total variance, and the remaining 55% of the variance was due to unexplained sources of error. The highest reliability measured was the interpersonal domain (G = 0.84) and the lowest reliability was the professional behavior domain (G = 0.76). Results from the decision (D) study suggested that an adequate dependability (G = 0.71) can be achieved by using one rater for five occasions. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between the written examination scores and cognitive competencies scores (r = 0.46, P < 0.01), but not with the other two competency domains (interpersonal and professionalism). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that professional competency assessment scores of medical students in PBL tutorials have an acceptable reliability. Further studies for validating the instrument are required before using it for summative evaluation of students by PBL tutors.

Additional Metadata
Keywords G-theory, Problem-based learning, Professional competencies, Reliability, Student assessment
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1594-y, hdl.handle.net/1765/126843
Journal BMC Medical Education
Citation
Kassab, S.E., Du, X., Toft, E., Crypian, F., Al-Moslih, A., Schmidt, H.G, … Abu-Hijleh, M. (2019). Measuring medical students' professional competencies in a problem-based curriculum: A reliability study. BMC Medical Education, 19(1). doi:10.1186/s12909-019-1594-y