2021-2022 – Walter Tavares | Medical Council of Canada
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To support medical assessment research, the MCC offers research grants to interested faculty members, staff members or graduate students of Canadian medical faculties.

2021-2022 – Walter Tavares

Examining the role and practical implications of philosophical positions in assessment


Walter Tavares, BSc, MSc, PhD


Matt Sibbald
Rachael Pack
Erik Driessen
Rose Hatala



The assessment community is increasingly diverse, which has led to an increase in the ways in which health professional educators think about assessment problems and their solutions. A new challenge emerges when broadening philosophical positions, some of which are in conflict, are used to interrogate assessment, which includes raising uncertainties about how to proceed. Philosophical positions are insidious; they inform the way that assessment work is conceived, designed, deployed and appraised. However, they are also often left implicit, assumed or unattended to, potentially undermining assessment efforts.


The purpose of this study is to advance outcome measurements/assessment by (a) generating theoretical insights about how philosophical positions influence outcome assessment and (b) to provide practical recommendations for the structuring, enactment and improvement of assessment work by attending to these philosophical positions in practice, in the context of competence committees (CC).


We designed a 2-phase convergent mixed methods. Phase 1 involves an analysis of CC guiding documents to explore philosophical assumptions in the manifest and latent and underlying content. Phase 2 involves semi-structured interviews of CC members across a variety of PGME programs at three Canadian universities (University of Toronto, McMaster University and University of British Columbia). We explore philosophical positions on features of CC work. Each Phase will be analyzed independently using qualitative description then merged and analyzed using framework analysis.


We aim to derive theoretical and practical advances in understanding the influence of philosophical positions in outcome assessment generally, and for CC work. This study presents an opportunity to explore how philosophical assumptions are at play, to what extent they matter and ways of proceeding on this assessment issue.