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Fam Med. 2004 Mar;36(3):189-98.

Communication assessment using the common ground instrument: psychometric properties.

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Department of Family Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, 37614, USA.



Recent guidelines from the Association of American Medical Colleges and from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education strongly suggest that communications teaching and assessment be part of medical education at all levels. This study's objective was to validate an instrument to assess communications skills. This instrument, Common Ground, is linked to the core, generic communication skills emphasized by the consensus statements of Toronto and Kalamazoo.


A total of 100 medical students were recruited from two medical schools and tested with four-station, communications-focused objective structured clinical examinations. Using Common Ground, trained raters performed checklist and global rating assessments. Experts globally assessed 20 representative interviews.


Inter-rater reliability for Common Ground was 0.85 for the overall global ratings and 0.92 for the overall checklist assessment. Generalizability coefficient was 0.80 for 50 minutes of testing. The correlation between the ratings of trained raters and a panel of communication experts was 0.84.


The Common Ground assessment instrument assesses core communication skills with sufficient reliability, validity, and generalizablity to make decisions on medical students' performance.

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