For faculty at many academic institutions, research and publication in peer-reviewed journals is a precursor to employment, a necessary step for promotion, and a requirement to secure and maintain tenure. But the importance of one’s publication record to career retention and advancement — what many in academia call the pressure to “publish or perish” — can lead faculty to prioritize publication requirements over the needs of their courses.
A 2012 survey from Elsevier reported that 81% of 3,090 published academics agreed or strongly agreed that: “My career depends on a history of publishing research articles in peer-reviewed journals.” One respondent added, “Articles in peer-reviewed journals make the most important contribution to my career in terms of status, merit pay, and marketability, vs. teaching or service.”
With publication history as the pathway to academic promotion — and the potential for these requirements to detract from teaching efforts — using the classroom as a venue for research can enable faculty to achieve professional milestones while also making important contributions to their courses. With the help of the right ed tech and data-driven insights, faculty can conduct valuable education research in their respective fields by highlighting innovative approaches to student learning and demonstrating the efficacy of specific assessment methods.
Exploring Research Opportunities in the Classroom
For academics and professionals alike, it can be challenging to integrate writing and research into daily work. But as Driscoll and Aquilina advise in “Writing for Publication: A Practical Six Step Approach,” “A good place to start to prepare an article for publication is to write about something you are already familiar with.” Identifying opportunities for research in teaching and learning can help educators tackle common barriers to publication — such as lack of time, resources, and confidence — and reframe familiar aspects of the classroom as areas to evaluate and innovate.
Educators are realizing the value of digital assessment software to facilitate research in the classroom while discovering new approaches to deliver more effective teaching and testing. With multiple ways to gather assessment data, intuitive reporting and analytics, and options to customize exams to the needs of the course, faculty can gather unique insights to inform instruction and assessment.
Below are three published articles from higher ed faculty who are using ExamSoft as a foundation for classroom research.
Demonstrating the Efficacy of Two-Step Formative Assessment
In “A Second Chance for Learning and Wellness: Implementation of Second-Chance Quizzes,” the authors discuss how the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) uses ExamSoft to facilitate a second-chance quizzing (SCQ) format. In the SCQ process, students are required to take an initial quiz within a testing window over the weekend; the following Monday, students have the option to take a second quiz, blueprinted similarly to the first quiz. The higher of the two quiz scores contributes to the students’ cumulative course grades. The goal of SCQs is to promote student learning and retention — and to mitigate the stress associated with high-stakes assessment.
Between August 2019 and October 2020, the UMMS delivered a total of 24 SCQs across eight courses, and all students completed at least two SCQs. In 2019-2020 course evaluations, roughly 64% felt that SCQs enhanced their learning of material and nearly 87% of students reported that SCQs improved their mental wellness. The authors conclude “that SCGs promote both well-being and learning without compromising the need to measure the attainment of mastery.”
Examining the Effects of Disabled Backward Navigation
In “A Mixed-Methods Exploration of the Effect of Disabling Backward Navigation on Calculations Computerized Exams,” the authors compare performance on comprehensive calculation exams in several 500-level pharmacy courses, before and after disabling backward navigation in the ExamSoft portal. Students were allowed three attempts to complete the exams, after which authors gathered exam-taker feedback via an anonymous, voluntary survey.
Students in Pharmacy 541 and 551 performed much worse on the initial test attempt with backward navigation disabled compared to prior exams with backward navigation enabled. There were no significant differences on the retakes of exams with disabled backward navigation. However, students in PharDSci 504 and Pharmacy 531 showed significant improvements in performance on the retakes. Across cohorts, at least 74% of students agreed that disabling backward navigation increased exam difficulty.
Observing the Impacts of Computer-Based Testing
In “Evaluating Outcomes of Computer-Based Classroom Testing: Student Acceptance and Impact on Learning and Exam Performance,” the authors discuss how faculty at the University of the Pacific Arthur Dugoni School of Dentistry examine pre-doctoral students’ acceptance of ExamSoft and the software’s impact on student learning and exam performance. After the school implemented ExamSoft as a replacement for paper-based exams, three classes were invited to participate in a survey asking students to share relevant background information, including prior experience with computer-based testing software and computer skills, as well as their perceptions of ExamSoft.
Of the 251 students who completed the survey, roughly 82% agreed or strongly agreed that ExamSoft is an effective testing system, and approximately 90% reported they felt comfortable taking exams on the ExamSoft platform. The survey also asked students to provide feedback regarding ExamSoft’s Strengths & Opportunities (S&O) Reports, which provide detailed, topic-driven performance feedback to students after exams. Roughly 50% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they got timely feedback on exam performance with ExamSoft, and 85% agreed that S&O Reports are helpful for their learning.
Digital Assessment Tools to Facilitate Classroom Research
With a flexible digital assessment platform, faculty can evaluate the efficacy of teaching methods, observe trends in student performance, and discover innovative approaches to learning and assessment. When data is central to the assessment process, it’s easy for faculty to gather insights to support their research. And sharing these insights in the form of academic publications enables faculty to meet institutional requirements for career advancement while enriching their academic communities.
Contact us to learn how ExamSoft can help you gain the data-driven insights you need for publication-ready classroom research.