Competency‐based medical education (CBME) led to the widespread adoption of workplace‐based assessment (WBA) with the promise of achieving assessment for learning. Despite this, studies have illustrated tensions between the summative and formative role of WBA which undermine learning goals. Models of workplace‐based learning (WBL) provide insight, however, these models excluded WBA. This scoping review synthesizes the primary literature addressing the role of WBA to guide learning in postgraduate medical education, with the goal of identifying gaps to address in future studies.
The search was applied to OVID Medline, Web of Science, ERIC and CINAHL databases, articles up to September 2020 were included. Titles and abstracts were screened by two reviewers, followed by a full text review. Two members independently extracted and analysed quantitative and qualitative data using a descriptive‐analytic technique rooted in Billett's four premises of WBL. Themes were synthesized and discussed until consensus.
All 33 papers focused on the perception of learning through WBA. The majority applied qualitative methodology (70%), and 12 studies (36%) made explicit reference to theory. Aligning with Billett's first premise, results reinforce that learning always occurs in the workplace. WBA helped guide learning goals and enhanced feedback frequency and specificity. Billett's remaining premises provided an important lens to understand how tensions that existed in WBL have been exacerbated with frequent WBA. As individuals engage in both work and WBA, they are slowly transforming the workplace. Culture and context frame individual experiences and the perceived authenticity of WBA. Finally, individuals will have different goals, and learn different things, from the same experience.
Analysing WBA literature through the lens of WBL theory allows us to reframe previously described tensions. We propose that future studies attend to learning theory, and demonstrate alignment with philosophical position, to advance our understanding of assessment‐for‐learning in the workplace.