About IDEAL Consortium

Our Mission       Our Vision       Our History

Our Mission

  • to establish and share a voluminous high quality assessment bank for medical education on an international scale
  • to encourage communication among medical schools concerning quality standards in assessment
  • to promote research for developing international standards in assessment of medical competence

Our Vision

The vision of the IDEAL Consortium is to enable medical schools that offer their curricula in English, to have cost-effective access to current, voluminous, high-quality banks of questions and stations suitable for:

  • self-administered assessment and enhanced independent learning skills (formative bank);
  • high-stakes assessment and improved decision making relative to module/course completion, promotion and awarding of degrees (summative bank);
  • benchmarking exercises within and across international borders (i.e., comparative student learning outcome data suitable for reporting to accreditation or other review bodies);
  • generating quasi-citation indices for contributions to teaching & learning by individual teachers or groups of teachers (intra- and inter-institutional usage); and
  • enhancing research in medical education with reference to reliability, validity and feasibility of various forms of assessments as well as investigating the impact of instructional and curricula variations and modifications.

To facilitate the vision, IDEAL's By-laws require that internationally recognized standards are met for:

  • item quality in terms of composition, accuracy and relevance of assessed content and skills;
  • appropriate security for questions and stations intended for use in summative assessments; and
  • copyright protection for contributing institutions and their staff members who authored the banked questions and stations.

In addition, Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) efforts include:

  • workshops in member institutions for enhancing item writing expertise among teaching staff and the quality of the items members must annually contribute;
  • regular culling of banked items which are regarded by international experts as being of questionable quality or no longer accurate given current evidence; and
  • annually augmenting the formative and summative item banks with a minimum of 150 additional items from each member school (i.e., more than 3400 new items each year).

Our History

In the mid 1990s, two medical schools from Canada and China began sharing their assessment item banks, using a software platform developed in Canada for supporting item banking at the postgraduate level.
With the aid of teaching development grants obtained from Hong Kong's University Grants Committee, the software was substantially modified to support sharing of items, benchmarking performances and documenting use of each item among international schools with undergraduate medical curricula. The technological improvements significantly aided efforts to set up an international consortium in December 2000, with the original eight member schools now expanded to thirty. Three evidence-based tenets in medical education underlie these schools' collaboration:

  1. Research consistently finds that assessments drive student learning. Therefore, availability of quality assessments is fundamental to the operation of a successful medical education programme.
  2. Extensive sampling of students' abilities is needed in order to achieve recognized standards of precision, reliability and validity. Therefore, accessibility to a large resource of quality measures is essential for constructing effective assessments on a continuing basis.
  3. Skills in writing valid measures of clinical reasoning and decision making are not well represented across disciplines within many medical schools. Therefore, comparability of this limited expertise requires an enabling organization and technology for sharing related learning resources so that schools can address their assessment challenges in a cost-effective manner.

This collaboration is referred to as the IDEAL (International Database for Enhanced Assessments and Learning) Consortium.