Assessing task importance and anxiety in medical school: An instrument development and initial validation study

Henry L. Phillips, Ting Dong, Steven J. Durning, Anthony R. Artino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent research in medical education suggests that students’ motivational beliefs, such as their beliefs about the importance of a task, and their emotions are meaningful predictors of learning and performance. The primary purpose of this study was to develop a self-report measure of “task importance” and “anxiety” in relation to several medical education competencies and to collect validity evidence for the new measures. The secondary purpose was to evaluate differences in these measures by year of medical school. Exploratory factor analysis of scores from 368 medical school students suggested two task importance factors and three anxiety factors. The task importance and anxiety subscales were weakly related to each other and exhibited consistently negative and positive correlations, respectively, with three self-efficacy subscales. The task importance subscales were positively related to “metacognition,” whereas “interpersonal skills anxiety” and “health knowledge anxiety” were positively related to “procrastination.” All three anxiety factors were positively related to “avoidance of help seeking,” whereas “interpersonal skills and professionalism importance” was negatively related to help avoidance behaviors. Finally, comparisons across the 4 years of medical school indicated that some aspects of task importance and anxiety varied significantly. Overall, findings from this study provide validity evidence for the psychometric quality of these scales, which capture task importance and anxiety in medical students. Limitations and implications for medical education research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-42
Number of pages12
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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