Open Access

More than adaptation: why we carried out faculty development on assessment in the middle of a pandemic

Ikuo Shimizu[1], Junichiro Mori[1], Hiroyuki Kanno[1]

Institution: 1. Shinshu University
Corresponding Author: Dr Ikuo Shimizu ([email protected])
Categories: Assessment, Education Management and Leadership, Teachers/Trainers (including Faculty Development), Technology
Published Date: 20/05/2020
Keywords: assessment; COVID-19 adaptation; culture; faculty development; learning management system; online learning


Like other countries around the globe, our undergraduate curriculum has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the academic year in April, our school discontinued face-to-face courses. Before the transition to online learning, we analyzed our educational environment in this situation: while using the current learning management system (LMS) as the platform for communication, content delivery and assessment proved to be a strength; we recognized that many faculty members had relied heavily on a single end-of-term summative testing for raising student performances. This practice may have come from a traditional view of examination among pedagogues in East Asia (Kwok, 2004). However, we recognized the policy as weakness for two reasons: Practically speaking, a single end-of-term test is vulnerable in case of network trouble or future progression of the outbreak (Dennick, Wilkinson and Purcell, 2009); and additionally, educational evidence has shown that purely summative assessments do not steer learning but instead, only affect test-taking attitude (Schuwirth and Ash, 2013). While we were already aware of this weakness in our curriculum before the outbreak, we realized that it became amplified during online learning, because it was difficult for many learners to establish self-directed learning without any handholding in online learning (Masters and Ellaway, 2008; Ranasinghe, 2019). Therefore, we decided that we needed to encourage faculty members to revise their assessment strategies rather than developing makeshift adaptations for the situation.


Just before starting the semester, we had a faculty development lecture about the online learning environment and advised the instructors on assessment strategies. In the lecture, we pointed out the potential concern of a single end-of-term test, as written above. We also noted the importance of feedback to promote students’ learning in the online learning environment based on several pieces of educational evidence (Masters and Ellaway, 2008). Then, as a practical solution for these challenges, we asked faculty members to implement a variety of assessment opportunities such as quizzes or short essays during or after lectures in addition to a single end-of-term summative test. We provided concise videos about how to construct these assessments on the LMS. The lecture videos achieved 209 views (as of the end of April) among 119 faculty members in our school, and formative assessment activities during or after each lecture were newly applied in more than 70% of the lectures in the spring semester.


The experience provided several lessons. First of all, modifications to teaching practices have been easily accepted in the midst of the catastrophe. Generally speaking, any attempt to reform educational practices faces opposition. According to the Awareness-Desire-Knowledge-Ability-Reinforcement (ADKAR) model to explain organizational change (Hiatt, 2006), awareness of the need and desire for change are the first and second steps, while uncertain risk due to any change tends to be regarded more significantly than the benefit from the change (Kahneman and Tversky, 2018). However, in response to the COVID reality, possible benefits from a change surpass the fear of uncertainty. In other words, crisis brings awareness and desire for a change and thus is a good opportunity for reform.


Interestingly, we also succeeded in providing an opportunity of reflection for educators regarding their assessment strategies according to the feedback comments after the faculty development lecture. For instance, one professor recognized that assessing students only through his end-of-term test provided him with minimal information of students’ achievements. In this pandemic situation, there are limited ways to train the faculty. If, however, in addition to having them adapt to teaching in the online learning, we also keep desired reforms in mind, we will bring effective changes that will endure even after the pandemic passes. 

Take Home Messages

  • Culture may affect the implementation of online learning.
  • We have to take care of weaknesses of online learning.
  • Pandemic is a good opportunity for educational reform because modification can be easily accepted.
  • In addition to adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic, we should consider the future educational influence after the pandemic.

Notes On Contributors

Ikuo Shimizu, MD, MHPE, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Safety Management Office and a teaching staff for Center for Medical Education and Clinical Training at Shinshu University School of Medicine, Japan. ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6731-7104


Junichiro Mori, MD, PhD, is a Lecturer for Center for Medical Education and Clinical Training at Shinshu University School of Medicine, Japan.


Hiroyuki Kanno, MD, PhD, is a Professor for Department of Pathology at Shinshu University School of Medicine, Japan.




Dennick, R., Wilkinson, S. and Purcell, N. (2009) ‘Online eAssessment: AMEE Guide No. 39’, Medical Teacher, 31(3), pp. 192–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/01421590902792406


Hiatt, J. (2006). ADKAR: A model for change in business, government and our community. Loveland, Colorado, USA: Prosci Learning Center Publications.

Kahneman, D. and Tversky, A. (2018) ‘Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk’, in Experiments in Environmental Economics, pp. 263–291. https://doi.org/10.2307/1914185


Kwok, P. (2004) ‘Examination-Oriented knowledge and value transformation in East Asian Cram Schools’, Asia Pacific Education Review, 5(1), pp. 64–75. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03026280

Masters, K. and Ellaway, R. (2008) ‘e-Learning in medical education Guide 32 Part 2: Technology, management and design’, Medical Teacher, 30(5), pp. 474–489. https://doi.org/10.1080/01421590802108349

Ranasinghe, L. (2019) ‘Digitalising medical education: sacrificing skills for knowledge?’, Medical Education Online, 24(1), p. 1567240. https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2019.1567240

Schuwirth, L. and Ash, J. (2013) ‘Assessing tomorrow’s learners: in competency-based education only a radically different holistic method of assessment will work. Six things we could forget.’, Medical Teacher, 35(7), pp. 555–9. https://doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2013.787140




There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

Ethics Statement

The Insisutional Review Board of Shinshu University decided that no ethical review was required.

External Funding

This article has not had any External Funding


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Mary Dankbaar - (01/06/2020) Panel Member Icon
This is an interesting letter, illustrating the slogan 'never waste a good crisis'. The authors have taken the opportunity for change that the Covid-19 pandemic also is offering, in addition to numerous disadvantages for learning.
They changed the focus on single end exams to multiple assessment activities with feedback: assessment for learning. They provided videos on how to design these formative assessment instruments.

It is very interesting to read how the opportunities for change were taken up and that this innovative assessment approach was implemented. As the letter is quite brief, I wonder how the aligment of learning goals and assessment forms was done, whether the videos were sufficient for faculty to implement the change, and how students evaluated this new assessment approach.
Maria de los Angeles Fernandez-Altuna - (21/05/2020)
The letter describes how this pandemic affected assessment in a Japanese Medical School.
It is very interesting the way Faculty reacted and embraced the assessment change in short time and with only one lecture. Culture may be an important factor.

Crisis brought "awareness" and "desire" for a change. It would be interesting to see if this effect lasts over time and if “knowledge, hability and reinforcement” may add some advantages to have the complete organizacional change.

I would very much like to see a paper comparing semesters of last year with the semester described on this letter and to know more of the reaction of students to the modification on assessments.
P Ravi Shankar - (21/05/2020) Panel Member Icon
This is an interesting letter describing briefly changes to assessment in a Japanese medical school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the faculty members relied heavily on a single end of term assessment to measure student progress. The school conducted a session on assessment for faculty members and faculty implemented different quizzes and/or short essays during or after their sessions. There is now a greater emphasis on repeated assessments and on formative assessments. The change seems to have been adopted by a large proportion of faculty members. The article is well-written and reads well. I would be interested in knowing about the development of and progression of changes in assessment and in teaching-learning at the medical school. At present only a brief summary is provided as a letter to the editor.