Giving students frequent quizzes can help close the achievement gap in physiology

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Frequent small-stakes assessments can help marginalized students close an achievement gap in teaching physiology, according to research to be presented this week at the American Physiological Institute on Teaching and Learning. Society (APS) in Madison, Wisconsin.

Low-stakes assessments, sometimes also called low-stakes assessments, are ways of assessing student progress that do not have a large impact on final grades or results. Quizzes, practice exams, and other quick-response activities are types of low-stakes assessments. Physiology educator-researchers at the University of Minnesota previously found that low-stakes assessments helped improve test scores in a basic physiology course. In a new study, the research team examined achievement gaps in a principles of physiology course compared to grade point average (GPA) in physiology majors over three years.

Educator-researchers looked at the identifying factors of students, including:

  • race;
  • genre;
  • first-generation status (if the student was the first in their family to go to university);
  • class (sophomore, junior or senior); and
  • stated financial need.

Enrollment in the principles of physiology course tends to be predominantly white women who are first-generation students. Non-white students enrolled in the course tended to be the ones who underperformed, with grades below 70%. However, the low-stakes assessments helped reduce the number of students who received lower grades in the course. Additionally, the semester GPAs of the non-white group were between 3.0 and 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, confirming that frequent testing opportunities helped close this achievement gap.

“The female, non-white, first generation [students] tended to have lower final scores to begin with, but have improved year over year,” said first author Steven C. Wu, Ph.D. “Giving students more opportunities to earn points helps to narrow the gaps and narrow the gaps in academic performance and physiology knowledge. However, there is still a long way to go for those who are underperforming against their GPA.”

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Provided by the American Physiological Society

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