One of the primary tasks of teachers is to prepare students for the next steps in their academic or professional careers. This is also true of those instructors preparing students for licensure and certification exams. Faculty must present required course content so students can successfully complete the program, while being mindful of the skills students will need for future careers.
Because content areas often build upon each other, students interact with specific material as designated throughout a course or program. Some content coverage occurs at the beginning of students’ first year in a program and might not be revisited until they prepare for a licensure exam or other high-stakes assessment. More often than not, students will need to revisit material they have not recently engaged with before a summative exam. Without a properly paced review period, students may find themselves frantically studying old material before the most important exams in their academic careers. How can faculty prevent this problem?
Ideally, programs and instructors build curricula in a way that scaffolds previously covered content with new content, but this doesn’t always happen in practice. Even when faculty successfully integrate new content with old, students sometimes overlook connections with old material as they strive to learn new material — the information covered on the next test — to pass the class. A consistent review of previously covered content throughout each semester isn’t always feasible, as it can diminish valuable time for studying new material, while also putting a strain on faculty time and resources.
How Assessments Can Help
What can students and faculty gain from using assessments to cover both new and old content throughout the curriculum? Faculty may not have time to engage students with content from previous courses during class time, but students can review this content independently through asynchronous assessments. This allows students to review material while also self-assessing their content knowledge — without affecting their GPA. If students continue to struggle on specific content on these assessments, they can direct their study time more efficiently when it’s time to prepare for a licensure, certification, or other high-stakes exam. Additionally, educational research indicates that planned repetition over an extended period leads to better knowledge retention. By leveraging low- or no-stakes formative assessments throughout a class or program, faculty can facilitate this repetition without overwhelming students.
Fortunately, instructors don’t always need to create these assessments as separate, new quizzes. They can recycle retired exam items to create practice formative assessments, which can help students stay up to date on content throughout the curriculum. This will help students retain key concepts, and save time for faculty and students in exam prep. Through spaced repetition of asynchronous assessments, students can avoid cramming content they have not engaged with since the beginning of their program. With this approach, instructors can increase passage rates on high-stakes exams while decreasing exam-prep stress for students.