Peer Review of Teaching Project

 

Date of this Version

2019

Document Type

Presentation

Citation

McFee, Renee M. "Smaller, more frequent assessments may reduce students’ ability to recall information " (2019). UNL Faculty Portfolios, 130. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/prtunl/130/

Abstract

Frequent, low-stakes, formative assessments can provide valuable feedback to both students and instructors. Formative assessments have also been shown to enhance student learning. However, many STEM instructors, including those in professional schools, rely solely on high-stakes, summative assessments such as unit, mid-term, or final exams. Our goal was to determine how administration of weekly quizzes impacts student learning (n = 27) in a graduate/professional-level veterinary physiology course. For 2 units (endocrine and cardiovascular), weekly quizzes were administered in addition to a summative, unit exam. Quizzes consisted of lower-order questions (e.g. recall) while exams consisted of higher-order questions (e.g. integrate, apply). For 2 additional units (neuromuscular and reproductive), only unit exams were given which consisted of both lower and higher-order questions. Academic performance was evaluated via high discrimination (point biserial > 0.3) and easy-moderate difficulty (50-99% correctly answered) questions. Knowledge retention was evaluated using these same questions on post-tests, administered a minimum of 7 weeks after unit exams. Initial analysis for 3 of the 4 units did not reveal differences in performance for either lower or higher-order questions when quizzes were given compared to when they were not. Knowledge retention associated with higher-order questions was also not impacted. However, knowledge retention associated with lower-order questions was significantly reduced (P < 0.02) when weekly quizzes were administered (26% reduction in score) compared to when they were not (16% reduction in score). Therefore, smaller, more frequent assessments may hinder rather than enhance students’ ability to recall information several weeks after originally being assessed. Frequent, low-stakes, formative assessments can provide valuable feedback to both students and instructors. Formative assessments have also been shown to enhance student learning. However, many STEM instructors, including those in professional schools, rely solely on high-stakes, summative assessments such as unit, mid-term, or final exams. Our goal was to determine how administration of weekly quizzes impacts student learning (n = 27) in a graduate/professional-level veterinary physiology course. For 2 units (endocrine and cardiovascular), weekly quizzes were administered in addition to a summative, unit exam. Quizzes consisted of lower-order questions (e.g. recall) while exams consisted of higher-order questions (e.g. integrate, apply). For 2 additional units (neuromuscular and reproductive), only unit exams were given which consisted of both lower and higher-order questions. Academic performance was evaluated via high discrimination (point biserial > 0.3) and easy-moderate difficulty (50-99% correctly answered) questions. Knowledge retention was evaluated using these same questions on post-tests, administered a minimum of 7 weeks after unit exams. Initial analysis for 3 of the 4 units did not reveal differences in performance for either lower or higher-order questions when quizzes were given compared to when they were not. Knowledge retention associated with higher-order questions was also not impacted. However, knowledge retention associated with lower-order questions was significantly reduced (P < 0.02) when weekly quizzes were administered (26% reduction in score) compared to when they were not (16% reduction in score). Therefore, smaller, more frequent assessments may hinder rather than enhance students’ ability to recall information several weeks after originally being assessed.

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