In this case study, the authors discuss external, formative program evaluation as a means to monitor and sustain ongoing curricular change and to prepare for periodic accreditation reviews. The Faculty of Medicine at Sherbrooke (in Quebec, Canada), following a major curricular reform begun in the mid-1980s, held three external, formative program evaluations in 1988, 1991, and 1994, using expert judgment and "connoisseur" models of evaluation. The authors present the goals of the evaluations (e.g., to evaluate the implementation of intended curricular changes) and the 17-step process used (e.g., "involve as many faculty and students as possible before and during the visit"), and describe the preparation for the evaluations, the selection of the external evaluators (e.g., a chief medical officer from the World Health Organization, a high-profile basic sciences teacher, the chairman of the previous accreditation team, and others), and on-site activities and reporting. Recommendations from the evaluators and the subsequent actions taken (and in a few cases, not taken) by the school are presented and discussed in terms of program planning, curricular content, basic sciences, problem-based learning and tutors' training, assessment of students, resource constraints, clerkships, community orientation, students' self-directedness, and medical humanism. The three evaluations helped guide and support the major curricular undertakings and encouraged continued changed and refinements. They also had a significant effect on the curriculum itself, on the faculty, and on the socioeducational climate of the school.
(C) 1998 Association of American Medical Colleges