Journal of Surgical Simulation 2015; 2: 60 - 67

Published: 01 December 2015


Original article

The educational value of work-based assessments: a survey of orthopaedic trainees and their consultant trainers

Alanna Pentlow and Jeremy Field
Corresponding author: Alanna Pentlow, Department of Orthopaedics, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, BS10 5NB, UK. Email:


Background: This study explores how educationally valuable work-based assessments (WBAs) are to surgical trainees and trainers and whether there are barriers to learning?

Methods: A questionnaire was sent to orthopaedic trainees and consultants within the Severn Deanery.

Results: Ninety-five percent (61) of consultants and 75% (46) of trainees responded. Twenty-one (34%) consultants and 18 (39%) trainees had not received training in using WBAs. Only 16 (25%) consultants and 6 (13%) trainees felt the purpose of WBAs was for education. Trainees reported receiving feedback for WBAs 63% of the time but consultants reported giving feedback 87% of the time. Procedure-based assessments (PBAs) were the only assessments perceived to be educationally valuable by the majority of respondents. Suggestions for improving educational value included more feedback, planning and time, fewer numbers, better training and fewer tick boxes. Twenty-six (58%) trainees and 20 (34%) consultants reported difficulties completing WBAs. The most common problem was lack of consultant’s time; 39 (85%) trainees, 38 (66%) consultants. Over 80% of respondents felt that 40 WBAs a year was too many, as a minimum compulsory number. Eighteen was the most popular preferred number.

Conclusions: A cultural change is needed for consultants and trainees to feel that WBAs are not just a tickbox exercise, but a useful educational tool for learning. 


Work-based assessments; education; orthopaedics; surgery