Fully funded PhD in Medical Education: Investigating the Influence of Entrustability-based Rating Scales on Examiners' Cognition

Keele University

Funded PhD studentship available

Join an ambitious team at the UK’s leading campus-based university to complete a project that combines education, psychology and medicine.

Applicants should have a good first degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant discipline and a Masters degree in a related discipline is desirable. Funding is available for three years to cover fees for PhD registration (2016/17 home/EU rates: £4,121) and a research studentship stipend of currently £14,296 per annum for 2016/17. Non-EU students would be required to pay the balance (currently approximately £11,200 per annum) of the overseas fees themselves. The post will be shared between the internationally renowned institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences (iPCHS), and the School of Medicine’s Medical Education Research Group (MERG).

The project:

Accurate assessment of the clinical skills of trainee healthcare professionals is vital for both patient safety and educational development and fairness. Current assessment approaches rely on observation and judgement of “competence” by professionals but are limited by problematic variability in scores. This PhD will contribute to the growing field of “Assessor Cognition” in medical education. Examiners vary in their attentional focus whilst observing performances, and struggle to manage the mental workload of the judgement task. “Entrustability-based” rating scales are a novel innovation which ask examiners to rate their degree of trust in trainees or the level of supervision they judge them to require. Whilst early data suggests these scales improve judgements, little is known about how a focus on “trust” rather than “competence” influences examiners’ judgemental approach; influences consistency or accuracy; mediates mental workload during judgements; or whether this judgemental focus may increase susceptibility to heuristics or social or normative biases.

The programme of study will use initial qualitative cognitive stimulated interviewing to explore this phenomenon, and then experimental methods to test predicted and emergent hypotheses. The candidate will be supported, but given considerable latitude, to develop the research approach in terms of theory, focus and methods. The PhD’s findings are anticipated to directly inform current practice.

The Environment:

Keele University School of Medicine was ranked 1st in the 2015 National Student Satisfaction survey, and consistently ranks within the top 10 nationally on all ranking systems of UK medical schools. The School of Medicine’s Medical Education Research Group (MERG) has an ambition to become nationally leading, with an international reputation, over the next 5 to 10 years, as well being included in Keele University’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2020 return.

The studentship will be hosted collaboratively within The Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences (iPCHS)at Keele University. iPCHS is the largest and most successful Research Institute at Keele (www.keele.ac.uk/pchs). 91% of Keele’s research in Primary Care was judged world leading or internationally excellent in Ref 2014. The student will join a vibrant group of PhD student in iPCHS; be supported by relevant seminars and meetings in both iPCHS, and MERG; will receive appropriate project costs; and be supported to present results at international conferences.

The supervisors:

Dr Peter Yeates: is a clinical lecturer in medical education research. His research focuses on assessor cognition in medical education; innovative assessment; and equating for examiner differences.


Professor Bob McKinley: is director of the medical education research group (MERG) at Keele School of Medicine, and Professor of Primary Care Education. His research includes assessor cognition as well as: assessment and enhancement of the skills of health professionals; formative and summative feedback on performance; and education in primary care.


For further information please contact p.yeates@keele.ac.uk. For any queries relating to the application process, please contact primarycare.pgr@keele.acc.uk

Applications are on line: www.keele.ac.uk/pgresearch/studentships