In education, one of the primary tasks of the teacher is to prepare students for what’s next. While this means something different to teachers at various grade levels, at its core, this means educators have the responsibility of preparing students for the next step in their academic or professional careers. This is most certainly true of faculty who are preparing students for licensure exams. These roles dictate that faculty must prepare students with vital course content, while also being mindful of their preparation for their future fields.
There’s an element of time that dictates when students interact with specific content throughout a course or program. Some content occurs at the beginning of students’ first year in a program and might not be revisited until they prepare for the licensure exam. With few exceptions, most content that is not taught in the last semester before the licensure exam is going to require students to revisit material they have not recently engaged with. This creates an undesirable situation in which students are cramming before the most important exams in their entire academic careers. How can this cycle be prevented?
Ideally, each curriculum is created in a way that scaffolds new content on top of previous content. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Even when this is done effectively, students tend to see new content in a silo, as they are trying their best to learn new material to pass the class. Therefore, students don’t always make the cognitive connection between current and previous content. A consistent review of previous content throughout each semester doesn’t seem feasible either. This would take precious study time of new content away from students while also being a strain on faculty time and resources.
What if we put our assessments in action to help students keep up on content throughout the curriculum? Faculty and students may not have time to continuously engage students with content from previous courses, but students can interact with review content through asynchronous assessments when they have time. This will allow students to review content while also self-assessing their performance. If students continue to struggle on specific content during these reviews, it will allow them to be more tactful in studying when licensure exam preparation begins. Additionally, educational research indicates that having planned repetition over an extended period of time leads to better retention. By leveraging low-stakes formative assessments throughout courses and the curriculum, faculty can create this repetition while not overwhelming students with too much content.
Fortunately, these assessments do not always have to be created as separate, new quizzes. Faculty can recycle retired exam items to create practice formative assessments. When good exam items are retired, they should not be forgotten! They can still be used to keep students up-to-date on all content throughout the duration of the curriculum. This will help to provide students content and assessments to keep up on key concepts, while not taking up vital study and preparation time from students and faculty, respectively. Through spaced repetition with asynchronous assessments, students can avoid the rushed process of cramming old content they have not engaged with since the beginning of their program. Utilizing these tactics will increase student performance on exams while decreasing pre-licensure exam stress.