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Use Of An Audience Response System For Continuous Summative Assessment

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogical Developments in BME

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1303.1 - 15.1303.7



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Paper Authors


William Guilford University of Virginia Orcid 16x16

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Will Guilford is currently an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. He received his B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Saint Francis College in Fort Wayne, Indiana,
and his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Will's research is the biophysical basis of cell movement and muscle contraction. He is also keenly interested in promoting research-based undergraduate education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Use of an Audience Response System for Continuous Summative Assessment Abstract

Audience response systems (ARS) have been used extensively for formative assessment and active learning in lecture-based courses. It is not known, however, if they can be successfully used in large classroom settings as the medium for delivering summative assessments. We used an ARS to deliver daily quizzes in lieu of exams to students in a course on cell and molecular biology for engineers. We found that ARS can be used for frequent assessment with instant feedback to the students and with minimal work by the instructor, with exactly the same learning outcomes as paper-based exams.


Audience response systems (ARS, also known as “clickers”) have been used extensively for formative assessment – helping students determine for themselves whether or not they understand the material, and breaking up rote lectures with an active learning activity. There is an extensive literature on their use and efficacy in these regards. While it is disputed whether ARS use improves student performance, there is evidence of improved retention as a result of using ARS in the classroom setting. Readers are referred to recent articles by Fies 1, and Crossgrove and Curran 2.

ARS have the added advantage of being able to assess large numbers of students simultaneously and rapidly. Paschal noted that ARS can overcome the problem of delays between issuing of formative homework and receipt of feedback by the student 3. Reports on their use for summative assessment, however, are scant. It has been proposed to use ARS to deliver frequent low-stakes assessments rather than relying on infrequent, high-stakes testing 4. However, the author is aware of no published reports of doing so at any educational level.

A worthwhile question is whether frequent low-stakes testing is equivalent in educational efficacy to infrequent high-stakes testing. It is accepted that testing students on the same material twice leads to improved retention of material. This is referred to as the “testing effect.” More than just a psychological phenomenon, there is evidence that the testing effect can be used to enhance learning and retention of material in a classroom setting 5. The testing effect is often noted in the context of frequent quizzes followed by an exam, or mid-term exams followed by a comprehensive final exam. However, even test-retest intervals of as little as three days can give a test effect and improve retention 6. Thus an approach of more frequent summative assessment that overlaps material, such that students are required to review any individual learning component more than one time, might prove effective. This approach, however, could prove labor-intensive when it comes to grading; the number of assessments at minimum doubles. This is especially problematic in a time of increased college enrollment and an environment of large class size.

We therefore combined these educational practices, ARS and retesting of material, to deliver overlapping summative assessments to large numbers of students in an undergraduate course on cellular and molecular biology for engineers.

Guilford, W. (2010, June), Use Of An Audience Response System For Continuous Summative Assessment Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16962

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