Continuous Testing is Vital to Student Success

Continuous testing is equivalent to taking vitals often. A nurse would not let a patient go for long periods of time without knowing their status (e.g., vital signs). In education, a similar requirement is present. Faculty need to frequently "take vitals" — Where is the student today? What does she understand? Where is the cohort today? What do they understand?

Continuous testing brings efficacy and efficiency to the teaching and learning process. Continuous testing can come in many different forms, through multiple tools. For instance, in Sherpath, the students read a small portion of text and the software administers a micro-quiz. Instead of waiting for the student to read for hours, just hoping they retain/understand, the micro-quiz will give instant feedback. To make it even more powerful, if the student misses a question, they are instantly taken to the exact part of the book where the answer can be found.

At the end of a passage, there is another quizzing tool in Sherpath that provides faculty and students with a set of vital signs. This tool is called Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing. Using adaptive quizzing technology, EAQ quizzes are generated based on student need, upcoming learning activities, and upcoming exams. Again, when a student misses a question, they are provided with instant feedback about knowledge gaps and where to find the answers.

Other types of continuous testing include the pre-class or beginning-of-class quiz. We know that if a student has a quiz to complete before class, or suspects a pop quiz at the beginning of class, they are more likely to read. This motivational strategy also will help the learner identify personal gaps in understanding and allow them to spend more time focused on personal weaknesses. If a quiz is given online, the instructor will get an instant item analysis. They can then quickly look at the results, identify 3-4 questions where scores were the lowest, and make them the focus of the lecture.

On a larger scale, the students should continuously be tested with standardized testing tools across the curriculum. Students should receive at least 1-2 standardized exams as graded activities per semester. The reason for this is to identify knowledge gaps in individuals and cohorts long before graduation. For instance, in semester one, the students take the pharmacology and health assessment HESI exams for a grade (maybe as a final exam in the course). The personal student reports from these assessments become learning objects in semester two (e.g., students journal in clinical based on the part of the HESI exam where they scored the lowest). The cohort reports help instructors in semester two develop learning activities that can address some of the overall needs for the class (e.g., the cohort report shows that this group of students is especially weak in the evaluation part of the nursing process).

Continuous testing gives vital sign data to students and faculty. With this data, they can better focus studying and learning. Faculty can better customize lesson plans. Curriculum can be adjusted on the fly. Success can be accessible to all.

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Tim Bristol,


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