Construct validation of judgement-based assessments of medical trainees' competency in the workplace using a "Kanesian" approach to validation

D A McGill, C P M van der Vleuten, M J Clarke

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BACKGROUND: Evaluations of clinical assessments that use judgement-based methods have frequently shown them to have sub-optimal reliability and internal validity evidence for their interpretation and intended use. The aim of this study was to enhance that validity evidence by an evaluation of the internal validity and reliability of competency constructs from supervisors' end-of-term summative assessments for prevocational medical trainees.

METHODS: The populations were medical trainees preparing for full registration as a medical practitioner (74) and supervisors who undertook ≥2 end-of-term summative assessments (n = 349) from a single institution. Confirmatory Factor Analysis was used to evaluate assessment internal construct validity. The hypothesised competency construct model to be tested, identified by exploratory factor analysis, had a theoretical basis established in workplace-psychology literature. Comparisons were made with competing models of potential competency constructs including the competency construct model of the original assessment. The optimal model for the competency constructs was identified using model fit and measurement invariance analysis. Construct homogeneity was assessed by Cronbach's α. Reliability measures were variance components of individual competency items and the identified competency constructs, and the number of assessments needed to achieve adequate reliability of R > 0.80.

RESULTS: The hypothesised competency constructs of "general professional job performance", "clinical skills" and "professional abilities" provides a good model-fit to the data, and a better fit than all alternative models. Model fit indices were χ2/df = 2.8; RMSEA = 0.073 (CI 0.057-0.088); CFI = 0.93; TLI = 0.95; SRMR = 0.039; WRMR = 0.93; AIC = 3879; and BIC = 4018). The optimal model had adequate measurement invariance with nested analysis of important population subgroups supporting the presence of full metric invariance. Reliability estimates for the competency construct "general professional job performance" indicated a resource efficient and reliable assessment for such a construct (6 assessments for an R > 0.80). Item homogeneity was good (Cronbach's alpha = 0.899). Other competency constructs are resource intensive requiring ≥11 assessments for a reliable assessment score.

CONCLUSION: Internal validity and reliability of clinical competence assessments using judgement-based methods are acceptable when actual competency constructs used by assessors are adequately identified. Validation for interpretation and use of supervisors' assessment in local training schemes is feasible using standard methods for gathering validity evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number237
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Administrative Personnel
  • Australia
  • Certification
  • Clinical Competence
  • Educational Measurement
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Journal Article
  • Validation Studies


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