Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



CBE Life Sci Educ June 1, 2023 22:ar27. DOI:10.1187/cbe.22-09-0181


Used by permission.


Biology instructors use concept assessments in their courses to gauge student understanding of important disciplinary ideas. Instructors can choose to administer concept assessments based on participation (i.e., lower stakes) or the correctness of responses (i.e., higher stakes), and students can complete the assessment in an in-class or out-of-class setting. Different administration conditions may affect how students engage with and perform on concept assessments, thus influencing how instructors should interpret the resulting scores. Building on a validity framework, we collected data from 1578 undergraduate students over 5 years under five different administration conditions. We did not find significant differences in scores between lower-stakes in-class, higher-stakes in-class, and lower-stakes out-of-class conditions, indicating a degree of equivalence among these three options. We found that students were likely to spend more time and have higher scores in the higher-stakes out-of-class condition. However, we suggest that instructors cautiously interpret scores from this condition, as it may be associated with an increased use of external resources. Taken together, we highlight the lower-stakes out-of-class condition as a widely applicable option that produces outcomes similar to in-class conditions, while respecting the common desire to preserve classroom instructional time.

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