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close this bookEducational Handbook for Health Personnel (WHO, 1998, 392 p.)
close this folderChapter 2: Evaluation planning
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWhat is evaluation?
View the documentContinuous evaluation formative and certifying evaluation
View the documentAims of student evaluation1
View the documentCommon methodology for student evaluation1
View the documentComparison of advantages and disadvantages of different types of test
View the documentEvaluation in education qualities of a measuring instrument
View the documentEvaluation is a matter for teamwork

Continuous evaluation formative and certifying evaluation


You will find the following equivalents in the literature for these two expressions:

Formative evaluation


diagnostic evaluation

Certifying evaluation


summative evaluation

Evaluation of education must begin with a clear and meaningful definition of its objectives. We cannot measure something unless we have first defined what it is we wish to measure.

When this phase of evaluation (the definition of objectives) has been properly completed, the choice or development of suitable evaluation procedures is that much easier. Schematically represented, the educational planning spiral (p. 2.05) comprises the determination of objectives, the planning of an evaluation system, the development of teaching activities and the implementation of evaluation procedures with possible revision of objectives.

The role of evaluation should not be limited to one of penalization. It should not be just a series of only too frequent obstacles which the students are supposed to get over and which become their sole subject of concern, the actual instruction becoming quite secondary. Under these circumstances the student's only interest is how to obtain his diploma with least effort. It is the teacher's responsibility to convince the student that his education is directed towards wider aims than merely gaining a diploma and that helping him to do so is not the sole purpose of evaluation (see p. 2.18 and 2.19).

Evaluation should also be formative, providing the student with information on his progress. It must therefore be continuously possible. This concept has often been misinterpreted, resulting in constant harassment of the student. There is a fundamental difference between formative and certifying evaluation. In both cases the evaluation tools must have the same level of difficulty and discrimination (see pp. 4.77-4.81).

Strict Rule

Evaluation should in no way be used by the teacher against the student.

Formative evaluation1

1 Read the article by C. McGuire - Diagnostic examinations in medical education. In: Development of educational programmes for the health professions. Geneva, WHO, 1973 (Public Health Papers No. 52).


- is designed to inform the student about the amount he still has to learn before achieving his educational objectives;

- measures the progress or gains made by the student from the moment he begins a programme until the time he completes it;

- enables learning activities to be adjusted in accordance with progress made or lack of it; it is therefore a teaching method;

- is very useful in guiding the student in his own learning and prompting him to ask for help;

- is controlled in its use by the student (results should not appear in any official record);

- is carried out frequently - as often as the student feels necessary;

- should in no way be used by the teacher to make a certifying judgement; the anonymity of the student should be safeguarded by use of a code of his choice. A coding system makes it possible to follow the progress of individuals and groups while preserving anonymity;

- provides the teacher with qualitative and quantitative data for modification of his teaching (particularly contributory educational objectives) or otherwise.

Certifying evaluation

- is designed to protect society by preventing incompetent personnel from practising;

- is traditionally used for placing students in order of merit and justifying decisions as to whether they should move up to the next class or be awarded a diploma;

- is cumulative, and carried out less frequently than formative evaluation, but at least at the end of a unit or period of instruction.


Try to answer questions 4 - 8 on p. 2.45.
Check your answers on p. 2.48.

We don't care how hard the student tried, we don't care how close he got... until he can perform he must not be certified as being able to perform.

R.F. Mager

Continuous evaluation must pit the student against himself and his own lack of competence and not against other students.

Evaluation of what?


Elements needed for the construction of an evaluation system

Evaluation should be built into all phases of programme construction. The following elements should be taken into consideration: firstly, the context in which the programme is being prepared, then the various inputs to the programme and, finally, the educational process and the performance of the learners.

1. Planning the evaluation of situation analysis and the identification of priority health problems (context)

Evaluation of the context is concerned with the initial decisions of importance for the educational programme. It is linked to the situation analysis where all the information of importance for the programme is available. If the information available is not satisfactory, it may be necessary to collect further information in order to arrive at the right educational decisions. This may include analysis of factors in the learners' potential job environment, selection of various job descriptions and employers' opinions on the performance of earlier students in their jobs. The analysis made in chapter 1 could thus be part of a context evaluation. The “climate” that exists in relation to the programme, the content, the methods, and resources used in the programme are all contextual aspects of importance for the planning stage.

2. Planning the evaluation of the human and material resources to be used and the elements to be included in the programme (the inputs)

At all stages of the learning process there are educational decisions to be taken by teachers. It is therefore important to make sure that teachers are competent and comfortable with the teaching methodology to be used (i.e. problem-based education), and if not, that they are given the training required; some kind of evaluation must also be planned to discourage teachers from putting students in a passive learning situation; and the programme itself must be subjected to careful scrutiny before it is actually implemented.

3. Planning the monitoring of implementation (the educational process)

An evaluation system must also plan how the implementation of the programme is to be monitored. This should detect the need for modification or replacement of any of the teaching/learning activities in the programme.

4. Planning the evaluation of learners (the output)

The central component of an evaluation system is the evaluation of the learners' performance. At this stage of planning, decisions must be made on the establishment of an evaluation committee, identification of persons to prepare instruments of evaluation, and the various administrative arrangements to be made for the evaluation of the learners' performance.

As this element is of paramount importance, we shall examine it next.

Student evaluation: what for?


The numbers on the left refer to the exercise on this page and the questions on p. 2.46.

9 Incentive to learn (motivation)


10 Feedback to student


11 Modification of learning activities


12 Selection of students

} appropriate measuring techniques

13 Success or failure


14 Feedback to teacher


15 School public relations


16 Protection of society (certification of competence)



Now try it ... indicate for each of the aims of evaluation (numbered 9-16) whether the measurement technique will be of the certifying evaluation type (C) or both certifying and formative evaluation (CF). Check your answers on p. 2.48.