Medical programmes that implement problem-based learning (PBL) face several challenges when introducing this innovative learning method. PBL relies on small group as the foundation of study, and tutors facilitate learning by guiding the process rather than teaching the group. One of the major challenges is the use of strategies to assess students working in small groups. Self-, peer- and tutor-assessment are integral part of PBL tutorials and they're not easy to perform, especially for non experienced students and tutors. The undergraduate PBL medical programme was introduced in 2003, and after two years the curriculum committee decided to evaluate the tutorial assessment in the new program.
A random group of ten students, out of a cohort of sixty, and ten tutors (out of eighteen) were selected for semi-structured interviews. The social representations' theory was used to explore how the students and tutors made sense of "assessment in tutorials". The data were content analyzed using software for qualitative and quantitative processing of text according to lexicological distribution patterns.
Even though students and tutors are aware of the broader purpose of assessment, they felt that they were not enough trained and confident to the tutorial assessment. Assigning numbers to complex behaviors on a regular basis, as in tutorials, is counter productive to cooperative group learning and self assessment. Tutors believe that students are immature and not able to assess themselves and tutors. Students believe that good grades are closely related to good oral presentation skills and also showed a corporative attitude among themselves (protecting each other from poor grades).
Faculty training on PBL tutorials' assessment process and a systematic strategy to evaluate new programs is absolutely necessary to review and correct directions. It is envisaged that planners can make better-informed decisions about curricular implementation, review and reform when information of this nature is made available to them.