Assessing a student’s knowledge and skills can be challenging, especially in a healthcare environment that is constantly evolving to include diverse competencies that are difficult to evaluate was the impetus behind a Mayo Clinic and University of Calgary study that assesses the education methods preferred by the generation that currently makes up the highest population of medical learners.

Alexandra Wolanskyj, M.D., senior associate dean for, Student Affairs, and Darcy Reed, M.D., senior associate dean for Academic Affairs at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, collaborated with Janeve Desy, M.D., of the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine on the study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that focuses on competency-based medical education, which consists of milestones and entrustable professional activities.

Though attempts have been challenged in the past, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada successfully introduced competency-based medical education to their respective institutions recently – and the study notes this change in attitude coincided with the increased presence of millennial medical students in the classroom.

Defined as individuals born between 1982 and 2000, the millennial generation is described by the study as displaying more needs for perfectionism, transparency, rules and emotional stability – and less self-reliance – while setting high expectations. The step-based approach of competency-based medical education is formed on a continuum beginning at the novice level and provides milestones where specific feedback is offered to learners ─ a component Dr. Reed says is essential to a millennial’s educational progress.

“The milestone-based assessment provides a sense of mentorship to students by continuously following them down a spectrum and evaluating their performance,” says Dr. Reed. “This assessment allows the individuals providing feedback to be very specific and tailor that feedback to millennial learners in a way that is pertinent to the skill set they’ll need in their medical profession.”

The study attributes these traits to the global environment in which millennials were raised and their greater exposure to it through the internet. The researchers say exposure influenced this generation that values technology, teamwork, personalization and mentoring in professional and educational settings. The study suggests that competency-based medical education satisfies these needs through a personalized education that also considers the emotional quotient and professional readiness of the student.