Summary of “Use of Unsupervised Online Quizzes as Formative Assessment in a Medical Physiology Course: Effects of Incentives on Student Participation and Performance”

In the article titled “Use of Unsupervised Online Quizzes as Formative Assessment in a Medical Physiology Course: Effects of Incentives on Student Participation and Performance,” published on May 9, 2007, in Advances in Physiology Education, researcher Jonathan Kibble detailed the findings of his study on formative assessment, via online quiz, among university students. He found that students who used formative quizzes were, overall, more likely to have higher scores on their summative assessments (Kibble, 2007, p. 257). He also conducted a survey among students who participated in the quizzes, and found that 80% of those who responded to the survey found them to be useful learning tools that provided quality feedback and helped them prepare for summative assessments (p.257). Faculty members surveyed agreed that the practice quizzes were “useful in helping students keep up with their studies” (p.257) and helped students to master the learning objectives of the class (p.257).

This study also focused on how giving students incentives to participate in formative online quizzes can influence both quiz participation and eventual summative assessment results. Kibble used several different quizzing models—some in which students received no credit for quizzes and could take them an unlimited number of times, some in which students received credit for simply taking quizzes, and some in which students received credit for quizzes based on their actual score (p.254). Students who participated in the online quizzes were overall more likely to do well on summative assessments—except for the group of students who received credit based on their quiz score, and who were limited to taking the quiz either once or twice (p.258-259). The majority of students in this category scored between 95% and 100% on their quizzes, but were not more likely to score any higher on summative assessments than their peers who did not participate in the quizzes (259). This suggests that students were using textbooks, notes, or other sources to “cheat” on the quizzes to simply get a high score, rather than using the quizzes as the learning tools they were designed to be (259).

I found this aspect of the study to be especially interesting. I think one of the benefits of formative testing is for students to truly get to practice their skills and test their knowledge without fear of punishment, and tying a formative assessment to a recorded grade seems to defeat the purpose. On the other hand, the study did find that students who had some kind of incentive were more likely to participate in the quizzes (258), so as a future teacher, I may want to consider offering a (non-graded) incentive for students to use any online quizzes I may design for them. This particular study focused on graduate-level students, but I still thought it had valuable information on how formative online quizzes can be used in a classroom setting, and I think I will be able to apply this information for use with middle-and-high school students.


Kibble, J. (2007). Use of unsupervised online quizzes as formative assessment in a medical physiology course: effects of incentives on student participation and performance. Advances in Physiology Education. 31: 253-260.


1 Comment

Filed under Assessment

One response to “Summary of “Use of Unsupervised Online Quizzes as Formative Assessment in a Medical Physiology Course: Effects of Incentives on Student Participation and Performance”

  1. Very interesting! I always allowed students to retake quizzes — provided they hadn’t cheated. I would re-iterate before every quiz: “Remember, if you are going to fail, fail with dignity! And then retake the quiz later when you are more prepared.”
    I put copies of all my quizzes in the media center and they were kind enough to allow students to do their retakes there. This opened up lots more chances for students to follow-through and since parents new that kids could retake quizzes before or after school with me, or during any study hall in the media center, they encouraged students to take responsibility for their scores. I guess since they couldn’t “cheat” rewarding them based on their actual outcomes was preferable.
    Maybe I should change my policy for my online class however to just reflect effort rather than outcome. Hmmm…

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