Assessment steers learning down the right road: Impact of progress testing on licensing examination performance
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Although it is generally accepted that assessment steers learning, this is generally viewed as an undesirable side effect. Recent evidence suggests otherwise. Experimental studies have shown that periodic formative assessments can enhance learning over equivalent time spent in study (Roediger & Karpicke 2006). However, positive effects of assessment at a curriculum level have not been demonstrated. Progress tests are a periodic formative assessment designed to enhance learning by providing objective and cumulative feedback, and by identifying a subgroup of students who require additional remediation. McMaster adopted the progress test methods in 1992-1993, as a consequence of poor performance on a national licensing examination. This article shows the positive effect of this innovation, which amounts to an immediate increase of about one-half standard deviation in examination scores, and a consistent upward trend in performance. The immediate effect of introducing objective tests was a reduction in failure rate on the licensing examination from 19% to 4.5%. Various reasons for this improvement in performance are discussed.
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