What Is Longitudinal Assessment?

Longitudinal assessment is a method proven to help ensure continuous acquisition of knowledge. It works by administering shorter assessments of specific content repeatedly over a period of time to help individuals increase their understanding, knowledge, and skills toward achieving the performance/practice standards in a specialty.

VIDEO: David Swanson, PhD, explains the concept of longitudinal assessment and the key benefits of applying it to testing.

During the time interval individuals are taking the assessments, they will get regular feedback about where they are according to the performance standard. They will get information that identifies where they are, how their performance compares to their peers, and the gaps between their performance and what successful performance looks like. With access to suggested resources for learning, and repeating the assessments, individuals can increase their knowledge and demonstrate that they are keeping up with the information in their field.

VIDEO: Cees van der Vleuten, PhD, discusses the role of longitudinal assessment in monitoring core competencies and improving them based on feedback.

Research on Longitudinal Assessment

A variety of studies and literature support longitudinal assessment.

  • A whitepaper on the theoretical framework for the continuing assessment of physicians’ clinical knowledge revealed four central themes: cognitive skills need to be kept current, self-assessment is not enough, testing enhances learning and retention, and goals and consequences motivate.
    The paper, “Conceptual Foundations for Designing Continuing Certification Assessments for Physicians,” was written by faculty from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology in partnership with ABMS, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Family Medicine.
  • Studies focused on medical professionals include a study published in Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare that found in more than 16 randomized trials, physicians improved long-term knowledge retention by answering questions over spaced intervals of time.
  • Another study of medical students published in Medical Education found that testing in combination with explaining the information is the most effective way to drive long-term retention of information.
  • The American Board of Anesthesiology, which offers a longitudinal assessment approach called the MOCA Minute®, found that Board Certified anesthesiologists who participated in the MOCA Minute outperformed non-participants on the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) Cognitive Examination, according to a study published in Anesthesiology.

Read more research at the ABMS Continuing Certification Reference Center.