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Empowering students with innovative assessments: Decolonising medicine

14 February 2024

3 minutes to read

Empowering students with innovative assessments: Decolonising medicine

As educators, we must continue to explore new approaches to assessment that not only assess student learning but also cultivate a deeper understanding of the complex issues at the heart of decolonisation. In this blog post, I will focus on the three innovative assessments that have helped to transform the learning experience for our students on the module Decolonising Medicine.

In the module Decolonising Medicine we dive deep into the intricacies of Medicine and healthcare through a lens of decolonisation. Facilitators and students embark on a journey together to uncover the historical injustices that have shaped our present-day healthcare systems. Decolonisation seems to be an ‘issue of the past’ but this module is not just about dissecting the past. It is about understanding how that ties into modern-day health inequalities and empowering students to become co-creators of solutions for a more equitable future.

Apart from brainstorming about specific learning and teaching methods to ensure this module centres the student voice, my teaching team and I discussed the importance of designing some innovative assessments and breaking the typical lecture-tutorial-exams structure along with challenging typical classroom power structures.

All assessments are communicated to students via ‘Skills Workshops’ to discuss assignment briefs, provide examples from past years and allow students to ask their questions, and the different skills needed to approach the assessment are also scaffolded throughout the module delivery.

Group Debates

 Debates in this module are a group assignment where students prepare on a pre-given topic that they choose as a class and spend time critically analysing diverse and researching as well as pre-empting the opposing team’s arguments, and crafting rebuttals. Given the novelty of the assessment, students get to practice debating on topics every week so they can boost their confidence in public speaking and supporting one another’s arguments within the team. Group debates help to develop dialogue and respectful dissent and empower students to consider alternate perspectives, even if they are not aligned with their line of thought of personal beliefs. It is not often that we get to imagine a classroom buzzing with energy and passion as students engage in lively debates on topics on the ethics of the Willowbrook Hepatitis Experiments or the impact of the Tuskegee Experiment on modern-day health inequalities.

The debate format, it was an amazing way of hearing new viewpoints, and being able to communicate my own and back them up sufficiently.

 I have improved my skills in wider research in this field of knowledge and I have become more proficient at engaging in an educated debate with peers- these skills have not only been an asset to my understanding of this module but I believe they have resulted in my improvement as a student and a better professional.

Reflective Journals

In the field of medicine and medical sciences, reflective writing is not common and interestingly, students found writing journals as a form of assessment the most challenging as it is not something they are regularly exposed to. Reflection is often a concept that is overlooked. In this module, students are encouraged to pause and ponder on these complex concepts through reflective journals. Students are asked reflective questions weekly, which they discuss in class with their peers and can be written in their journals. It also allows students to examine their own biases, privileges, and contributions to systemic injustice and develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their role in dismantling oppressive structures.

The forms of assessment such as the reflective journals really allow for great reflection of what I have learnt over the week and allows me to assimilate and understand the module better.

Educational Video Resource
At the end of the module, students are asked to create an educational video resource. They embark on a creative journey to record an informative and thought-provoking video. With the freedom to choose any topic within the decolonising medicine theme, students develop a 7-minute educational resource that challenges conventional narratives and sparks meaningful dialogue. Students are asked to leverage their research skills and creativity in developing an engaging video as they assume the role of an objective educator. This encourages students to contribute to a more inclusive and representative discourse.

These assessments prioritise student agency, critical thinking, and collaborative learning. By empowering students to actively participate in their education, we aim to build a culture of inquiry and accountability. These assessments go beyond the traditional boundaries, encouraging students from all backgrounds to contribute their unique perspectives to the discourse.

This module does not just teach medical ethics, but also strives us to be critical thinkers of our curriculum, and to challenge our perspectives on key healthcare issues of today that may still be affecting marginalised communities. DSM strives to remind us to be open to more voices from different backgrounds to achieve the positive change of integrated knowledge from all.’



Dr Musarrat Maisha Reza
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