The process for creating the Independent Student Analysis (ISA) should be coordinated by a small steering committee composed of students, representative of the student body, who preferably are selected or approved by the student body. This steering committee could include, among other members, representatives from the student council, class officers, and school representatives to national medical student organizations. Ideally, these students should come from all classes and campuses if applicable. The ISA survey needs to be administered to all enrolled students to develop a comprehensive picture of students’ perceptions of their medical education program.
Logistical support can be provided by the medical school to students (e.g., placing the survey on electronic platform, delivery of the survey, data collection, statistical analysis, etc.). Technical advice (e.g., for the development of additional questions) can also be provided as long as it remains independent of faculty. The interpretation of survey data and the preparation of the report of the ISA must be done exclusively by students.
An effective ISA will be based on extensive data from the entire student body. A high response rate to the survey is critical for the credibility of the data. The students responsible for the ISA need to inform the student body about the importance of participating in the survey and the seriousness with which the site visit team and the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) regard the results.
Survey raw data must be provided to the school’s self-study steering committee as soon as they become available so that the DCI can be completed, and the subcommittees can perform their work. Students concurrently perform their own data interpretation, data summary, and an analysis of student perceptions of the program’s strengths and achievements and areas for improvement. In addition to the actual data, the student leadership submit a report that includes the administered survey, a description of how the survey was conducted, an analysis of the participation of students across all years of the program and by campus, and summarizes the key findings and conclusions based on the survey data.
Is there a template that students can use as a guide to develop their student survey for the independent student analysis?
The Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) provides questions that must be included in the survey; minor revisions may be made to suit the context of the school (for example, titles or office names). Additional questions may be added (maximum 5 to 10), keeping in mind that these will add to the analysis work. The survey should have space for students to add comments.
It is also recommended to customize the survey to ensure that students only must respond to questions of relevance to their level of training, thus keeping the questionnaire shorter and increasing response rate (for example: questions pertaining to clinical rotations not relevant for first year students be omitted on the survey distributed to first year students).
Should school leaders/faculty review the independent student analysis?
Yes. Medical school officials should have an opportunity to review the independent student analysis and discuss any perceptions that it contains factual errors. They should also have an opportunity to incorporate the findings of the independent student analysis into the Medical School Self-study. They must not, however, edit or revise the analysis or pressure students to change its content or conclusions.
What type of student feedback is most useful to CACMS?
The best student feedback is analytical, candid, and constructive. It should accurately identify all relevant problems in a way that also indicates how students think the medical education program can improve. Students should indicate both a program’s particular strengths and challenges. A site visit team will be impressed by student feedback that is consistent across all information sources and is supported by appropriate documentation.
Is there a certain percentage of students who should respond to the student site visit for the information to be useful to CACMS?
A high response rate is desirable and necessary to ensure the credibility of the information. The student survey should ideally achieve a minimum of a 70% response rate for each class year and each campus if applicable. The students responsible for the survey may use incentives, supplied by the medical school administration, to support a good response rate.