The application of the tracer method with peer observation and formative feedback for professional development in clinical practice: a scoping review

Marjo J. M. Maas
Paul L. P. Brand
Philip J. van der Wees
Rudi A. Steenbruggen
Thomas J. Hoogeboom
Soort article
Learning environment,
Learning style,
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Introduction The tracer method, commonly used for quality assessment, can also be used as a tool for peer observation and formative feedback on professional development. This scoping review describes how, by whom, and with what effect the tracer method is applied as a formative professional development instrument between healthcare professionals of equal status and aims to identify the types of scientific evidence for this use of the tracer method.

Methods The authors searched four electronic databases for eligible articles, which were screened and assessed for eligibility by two independent researchers. From eligible studies, data were extracted to summarize, collate, and make a narrative account of the findings.

Results The electronic search yielded 1757 unique studies, eight of which were included as valid and relevant to our aim: five qualitative, two mixed methods, and one quantitative study. Seven studies took place in hospitals and one in general practice. The tracer method was used mainly as a form of peer observation and formative feedback. Most studies evaluated the tracer method’s feasibility and its impact on professional development. All but one study reported positive effects: participants described the tracer method generally as being valuable and worth continuing.

Discussion Although the body of evidence is small and largely limited to the hospital setting, using the tracer method for peer observation and formative feedback between healthcare professionals of equal status appears sufficiently useful to merit further rigorous evaluation and implementation in continuous professional development in healthcare.


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