The best methods to assess surgical knowledge are still debated. The authors used a non-multiple-choice test as a pre- and post-conference assessment to measure residents’ knowledge gains with comparison to a standard summative assessment tool.
At one didactic conference, plastic surgery residents at a single institution were given a pre-test of drawing and labeling structures in the extensor mechanism of the finger and within the carpal tunnel. The quiz was followed by a lecture on the same material and a subsequent post-test. Scores were correlated with in-service exam performance.
Pre-test scores (n = 13) were positively correlated with postgraduate year (PGY) until PGY-3. Performance on labeling structures was higher than performance on the respective drawing prompt. Residents’ ability to label structures increased more strongly with PGY than their ability to draw structures. The post-test (n = 8) demonstrated that teaching improves performance on labeling questions (pre-test score = 62%; post-test score = 87%). Improvement was observed across all PGYs. Pretest results were positively correlated with in-service exam performance.
Our study suggests that a knowledge test focused on drawing and labeling structures given to surgical residents is a valid, nontraditional method for assessing resident knowledge. Such a quiz would offer programs an alternative method for regularly evaluating residents aside from in-service questions, in order to identify residents who may need targeted training for the in-service exam and to inform teaching plans.
Additionally, residents could use quiz feedback to guide study efforts and prime conference-related learning.