Cluster analysis of assessment in anatomy and physiology for health science undergraduates
Brown, S; White, S; Power, N
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Academic content common to health science programs is often taught to a mixed group of students; however, content assessment may be consistent for each discipline. This study used a retrospective cluster analysis on such a group, first to identify high and low achieving students, and second, to determine the distribution of students within clusters based on their chosen program of study. Using a two-step cluster analysis based on five summative assessment scores for 773 undergraduate students, three distinct groups of students were identified: these are described as High Achievers, Standard Achievers, and Low Achievers. High Achievers scored higher in all five assessments compared with Standard Achievers and Low Achievers (all P < 0.01). Also, Standard Achievers scored higher than Low Achievers in all assessments. Membership of the High Achievers cluster comprised 15% Midwives, 20% Nurses, 10% Occupational Therapists, 11% Paramedics, 24% Physiotherapists, and 21% Standard Pathway students. This novel approach provides an opportunity for quantitative reflection on assessment in a large group of students with diverse career aspirations. It may be used to distinguish levels of achievement relative to peers within a group and potentially identify students within a program of study in need of academic assistance.