How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

The Importance of Self-Assessment

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In the world of modern medicine, with its constant stream of new information, it can be hard to keep up—especially when you already have a packed schedule. With so much new information to learn and absorb, and the need to prioritize your time, how do you know what you don’t know? 

Without self-evaluation, it’s difficult to pinpoint knowledge gaps. Those with higher levels of expertise, such as medical professionals, often misjudge their own knowledge and tend to be more confident in their perceived understanding. Through research conducted by Dunning and Kruger, evidence shows that people with knowledge gaps can be unaware that these knowledge gaps exist and can even overestimate their own capacity in an area because they are unaware of their proficiency level.1 This cognitive bias is commonly called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

“Assessing one’s knowledge on a continuous basis allows us to obtain a better understanding of our deficiencies, and by doing so, we can tailor our learning. Otherwise, we unknowingly rely on incorrect information and this could negatively impact the care we provide,” said Joseph T. Ruggiero, MD, Associate Editor on the ASCO University® Editorial Board. 

ASCO University Self-Evaluation Activities

The Self-Evaluation Activities Collection on ASCO University provides easy access to self-assessment questions in a variety of accessible formats. Activities consist of case-based multiple-choice questions with answers, rationales, and references. Resources include: 

  • ASCO-SEP 6th Edition
  • ASCO-SEP 6th Edition Mock Exam
  • ASCO MOC App 
  • ASCO University Personalized Learning Dashboard
  • 2018 Comprehensive Oncology Assessment 

Upon successful completion of ASCO University’s self-assessment activities, participants may request Continuing Medical Education, American Board of Internal Medicine Maintenance of Certification, Nursing, and Pharmacy credit. 

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It’s particularly important that medical professionals know what they don’t know—both to limit the potential for error and negative impacts on clinical decision-making and to facilitate a practice of lifelong, continuous learning. ASCO University has created several resources that allow participants to self-assess and address identified knowledge gaps. This offers a more personalized approach to continuous learning and makes the daunting task of keeping up with the fast pace of new information manageable.

 To continue to offer more customized learning options and diminish the Dunning-Kruger effect for medical professionals, ASCO University is developing a new learning platform, which will revolutionize the individual learning experience. The platform—which learners can expect to launch in spring 2020—will be more personalized; highly interactive; and include learning recommendations based on professional role, area of specialty, interests demonstrated through ASCO membership, and more. Learners can also access social platforms like discussion forums to connect with colleagues and explore topics of common interest. ■


1. Dunning D. Adv Exp Soc Psychol 44:247-296, 2011.

ASCO University is supported in part by ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Originally published in ASCO Connection. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?” ASCO Connection, September 2018. All rights reserved.