Date of this Version
JOURNAL OF MICROBIOLOGY & BIOLOGY EDUCATION, December 2015, p. 178-185
Concept assessments are used commonly in undergraduate science courses to assess student learning and diagnose areas of student difficulty. While most concept assessments align with the content of individual courses or course topics, some concept assessments have been developed for use at the programmatic level to gauge student progress and achievement over a series of courses or an entire major. The broad scope of a program-level assessment, which exceeds the content of any single course, creates several test administration issues, including finding a suitable time for students to take the assessment and adequately incentivizing student participation. These logistical considerations must also be weighed against test security and the ability of students to use unauthorized resources that could compromise test validity. To understand how potential administration methods affect student outcomes, we administered the Molecular Biology Capstone Assessment (MBCA) to three pairs of matched upper-division courses in two ways: an online assessment taken by students outside of class and a paper-based assessment taken during class. We found that overall test scores were not significantly different and that individual item difficulties were highly correlated between these two administration methods. However, in-class administration resulted in reduced completion rates of items at the end of the assessment. Taken together, these results suggest that an online, outside-of-class administration produces scores that are comparable to a paper-based, in-class format and has the added advantages that instructors do not have to dedicate class time and students are more likely to complete the entire assessment.