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Med Teach. 2007 Sep;29(7):672-7.

Process-outcome interrelationship and standard setting in medical education: the need for a comprehensive approach.

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  • 1World Federation for Medical Education, WFME Office University of Copenhagen.


An outcome-based approach to medical education compared to a process/content orientation is currently being discussed intensively. In this article, the process and outcome interrelationship in medical education is discussed, with specific emphasis on the relation to the definition of standards in basic medical education. Perceptions of outcome have always been an integrated element of curricular planning. The present debate underlines the need for stronger focus on learning objectives and outcome assessment in many medical schools around the world. The need to maintain an integrated approach of process/content and outcome is underlined in this paper. A worry is expressed about the taxonomy of learning in pure outcome-based medical education, in which student assessment can be a major determinant for the learning process, leaving the control of the medical curriculum to medical examiners. Moreover, curricula which favour reductionism by stating everything in terms of instrumental outcomes or competences, do face a risk of lowering quality and do become a prey for political interference. Standards based on outcome alone rise unclarified problems in relationship to licensure requirements of medical doctors. It is argued that the alleged dichotomy between process/content and outcome seems artificial, and that formulation of standards in medical education must follow a comprehensive line in curricular planning.

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