Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version

Winter 2016


CBE—Life Sciences Education • 15:ar73, pp. 1–14, Winter 2016.


© 2016 K. R. Brazeal et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education © 2016 The American Society for Cell Biology. Used by permission.


Formative assessments (FAs) can occur as preclass assignments, in-class activities, or postclass homework. FAs aim to promote student learning by accomplishing key objectives, including clarifying learning expectations, revealing student thinking to the instructor, providing feedback to the student that promotes learning, facilitating peer interactions, and activating student ownership of learning. While FAs have gained prominence within the education community, we have limited knowledge regarding student perceptions of these activities. We used a mixed-methods approach to determine whether students recognize and value the role of FAs in their learning and how students perceive course activities to align with five key FA objectives. To address these questions, we administered a midsemester survey in seven introductory biology course sections that were using multiple FA techniques. Overall, responses to both open-ended and closed-ended questions revealed that the majority of students held positive perceptions of FAs and perceived FAs to facilitate their learning in a variety of ways. Students consistently considered FA activities to have accomplished particular objectives, but there was greater variation among FAs in how students perceived the achievement of other objectives. We further discuss potential sources of student resistance and implications of these results for instructor practice.

Included in

Biology Commons