Teacher’s Assessment Training at the Army Medical College Rawalpindi


 Teacher’s Assessment Training at the 
Army Medical College Rawalpindi

Lt Gen Prof Emeritus Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar
Former Surgeon General/DGMS (IS), Pakistan Army
Principal, Army Medical College, Rawalpindi

Teachers’ role in imparting education is most crucial. As doctors’ deal with the lives of the people, medical education has added importance. In order to improve teachers’ training/education, ‘Teachers assessment program’ was carried out at the Army Medical College. I would like to narrate the teachers’ assessment process adopted and practiced successfully at the Army Medical College Rawalpindi initiated during 1989 when I took over as the Principal/Dean of the Army Medical College Rawalpindi and Dean of the Medical Faculty Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.

Lt. Gen. (R) Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

Students attending the lectures, tutorials, were involved in assessing the learning of the students and quality/teaching output of their teachers. The students filled in detailed Performa fort-nightly stating the topics they were taught, any difficulty in understanding the subject, clarity of concepts, problem solving, aids used etc and suggestions for improvement.  The students were authorized to send their comments, difficulties experienced etc directly to me and I regularly interviewed student batches/groups lead by the senior cadet. I conveyed student’s difficulties to the teachers, monitored the progress and improvements. The senior teachers and the Heads of the departments were involved in supervising and overseeing the performance of junior teachers and reporting their progress.

I frequently visited the Basic Sciences departments and assessed the teachers and students performances. The clinical teachers were involved in the newly started integrated teaching. I made a rule that the whole staff of the respective Basic Sciences department should be involved in teaching the students during practicals, like Anatomy dissections, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology, Community Medicine and Forensic Medicine. The teachers involved students in questions/answers sessions, discussions etc. I emphasized that the practical classes were much more important than the theoretical teaching. I frequently discussed with the students applied aspects of the subjects. I learnt during my visits abroad that institutions gave far more importance to the practical teaching learning than the lectures. Ironically the Pharmacology department was holding practicals on making mixtures, ointments, pills etc, in 1989, the 1940’s vintage teaching while even pharmacy students were not doing these things. This was the practice in all the medical colleges of the country except Aga Khan Medical College. This was abolished replaced with modern Clinical Pharmacology practicals. Likewise clinical physiology was taught and clinical methods were introduced in the physiology practicals, clinical Anatomy, clinical Biochemistry and Behavioural Sciences were also introduced.

The Army Medical College was the first to begin integrated medical education in 1989. Integration involved the basic sciences departments in coordination with the clinical subjects. A medical education department was setup, again the first one. A structured training program was devised – updated at regular intervals. Lt Col Muhammad Aslam later Maj Gen/Principal, Late Lt Col Zaidi of Anatomy, Lt Col MH Najmi (later Brig/ Prof) pharmacologist worked hard in organizing the integrated teaching. The integrated learning / teaching enhanced the students’ enthusiasm and interest in learning. Multiple choice questions were introduced to provide wide coverage to the subjects.

I myself got the feed-back of my own teaching medicine, realizing that I was teaching the undergraduates above their level as I had been teaching postgraduates for a long time. I adjusted my teaching to the satisfaction of the undergraduate students.

Clinical teaching, learning and evaluation had different dynamics as there were over a dozen clinical classes at different wards and hospitals and there were also evening clinical teaching sessions. A Performa was devised, each clinical batch of students headed by a senior cadet filled in daily report forwarding to the Principal early next morning. I checked the reports myself, my first assignment in the morning. The contents of the Performa were about the timings of students and teachers arrivals at the wards, the topics discussed, practical work done, the students understanding, clarity of concepts, difficulties etc. There were also comments by the teachers – on students’ punctuality, performances etc. Once a senior officer, a Head of a department, a class fellow of mine came late in the ward delivered a theoretical talk without practical work etc, violating the laid-down policy of the Principal. I called him next morning, read to him students comments and asked him to do justice to the teaching. He agreed but as an aside told me, sir have you not given too much powers to the cadets?

I told him that I attended an international course of eight weeks duration on Hepatology in London. Professor Sheila-Sherlock and Dr. Roger Williams the leading international experts of Hepatology were involved in teaching. At the end of the course a comprehensive Performa was given to the students (all senior doctors from all over the World) for assessment / comments on the performance of teachers. Prof Sheila-Sherlock was adjudged the best teacher. In addition to it Prof Sheila-Sherlock had given us a separate Performa to fill it weekly to point out any difficulties in understanding the topic so that she could help in the next session. I told my colleagues that in all the universities/ institutions abroad, students regularly report on their teacher’s performance and teachers welcome it to improve learning and teaching.

At the end of wards clinical training sessions (3 to 4 weeks wards work) exams were held and the results submitted to the Principal. The results were tabulated and helped in the continuous and the final annual assessment of students. Every semester, theory exams were also held. Parents were sent quarterly progress reports of students and were involved in improving the learning/teaching.  

This system worked very well – our students had achieved standards at par with the Agha Khan Medical College – the leading institution in the country. The Army Medical College students had excellent results in the postgraduate qualification exams in the country and abroad.

Due to continuous assessment at the end of each year, sufficient reliable data was available to reflect accurately on the performance of teachers and learning of students. There was continued education, professional development and training of the teachers. The integrated teaching curricula/syllabi developed at the Army Medical College were circulated to the PM&DC and the other teaching institutions also presented at various medical educational conferences.

The Army Medical College’s establishment was justified on the premise that there would not be more than one hundred students’ admission each year so that clinically well trained competent doctors would be produced. While in other medical colleges more than two hundred were admitted yearly, done by an executive order by the Government. Unfortunately later on for commercial reasons the number of students increased to over 200 in the Army Medical College affiliation to the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST). There was no continuity in posting of clinical teaching staff at the Army Medical College and the system lost continuity. There is a wrong thinking in our milieu that involvement of students in assessment of learning/teaching affects the authority of teachers. In fact it helps in improving the teachers’ performances and raising of educational standards. This should be done at all learning / teaching institutions. For implementation, leadership quality is the need.