Online Formative Assessment in a Medical PBL-Curriculum
The Medical Faculty of the University of Bern provides formative assessments in the form of self-tests, accompanied by their respective correct answers. This type of formative assessment is lacking both the central aspects of feedback to students regarding their performance referred to in the literature, and tutors’ awareness of this data. The latter feature would provide the possibility to adjust and optimize teaching accordingly. In order to tackle an adequate system change towards online formative assessments with feedback, we conducted a survey study by asking 477 medical students and 131 tutors questions regarding current and future online formative assessments. The survey-items targeted on the subsamples’ perceptions and expectations of current and future formative assessments, respectively. The data show a distinct discrepancy between students and tutors: Students rated current formative assessments significantly worse than tutors and expect higher enhancements regarding future, online formative assessments. However, both groups would welcome a system change bringing about feedback, with impact on teaching. The question remains of how formative assessments need to be revised to meet the requirements concerning didactic effects. The outlook on the near future shows that the implementation of online formative assessments offers the opportunity to track some aspects of learning progress and learning behavior on the level of the cohort, the level of the individual student, and the level of knowledge domains. This constructs a metadata layer which has the potential for a serendipity effect: the construct is a didactic ontology of the running curriculum providing insights hitherto unavailable. The power of this metadata layer can be enhanced by incorporating data from the online forum discussions, the exams, and the curriculum evaluation.
A big ‘thank you’ goes to Institute of Medical Education staff members Hans Holzherr for the translation into English, and to Dethardt Baumann for his support in processing the questionnaires. We also thank the students and the tutors for their participation in the survey and for the time we were given during the lectures, resulting in a high response rate.
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