Practice Assessments

No team wins in sports without practice first.  The same can be applied to assessments in online classes.  A variety of tools are available to allow for students to practice and master concepts before summative tests are given.

Most LMS quizzes make it easy to provide this ongoing assessment.  Quizzes can be set so that students can take them multiple times for practice without impacting their grades of record.  Research has suggested that students who take advantage of practice tests tend to perform better on the summative tests of record.

Leith Sly (1999) of Curtin University of Technology investigated the influence of practice tests as formative assessment to improve student performance on computer-managed learning assessments. Sly hypothesized that students who selected to take practice tests would outperform students who did not select to take practice tests on the first and second unit exams in a first year college Economics course. The students who selected to take practice tests did significantly outperform those who did not take practices tests on both unit exams one and two.

Cassady and Gridley (2005) looked at the effects of online formative assessments on test anxiety and performance.  They found a small benefit for using online practice tests prior to graded course exams. This effect appears to be in part due to the reduction of the deleterious effects of negative test perceptions afforded in conditions where practice tests were available. The results support the integration of online practice tests to help students prepare for course exams and also reveal that secure web-based testing can aid undergraduate instruction through improved student confidence and increased instructional time.

To optimize your practice tests, a best practice is to first build a pool of questions in the LMS. And then create a practice test that randomly draws from this pool.  In this way, each time the student takes the practice quiz, they will have a different test.

Of course, practice assessments can be more than practice quizzes.  Wabisabi Learning provides seven ideas which can be adapted for online classes.