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ORIGINAL ARTICLE  
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 47-53
Perception of students and faculties regarding the formative assessment examinations in dental college in India


1 Department of Oral Medicine & Radiology, SPD College, Sawangi-M, Wardha, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pathology, JN Medical College, Sawangi-M, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

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Date of Web Publication9-Jan-2015
 

   Abstract 

Objectives: Student assessment is one of the vital elements in educational process. It is essential to conserve the formative nature of the assessment so that assessment is more structured and meaningful. Hence, it is necessary to review the existing formative assessment practises. The study was undertaken with purpose to estimate and compare the student and faculty perception about formative assessment examination in the institution.
Materials and Methods: Seventy students and four faculties were enrolled for study on the basis of voluntary participation. The study participants were subjected to open and close-ended questionnaire, focus group discussions and individual interviews to obtain the perception. The responses were analysed by descriptive and thematic analysis.
Results: Overall, the participants found the formative assessment practises to be satisfactory with few exceptions as there should be uniform judging criteria, and the feedback mechanism be more structured. Faculty mentioned that higher cognitive domain should also be tested in formative assessment.
Conclusion: The study has brought forward the need for the sensitization of students so that applicability of formative assessment is enhanced. The periodic feedback should be obtained from faculty and students; the input will aid to plan strategies to maximize the student learning.

Keywords: Formative assessment, feedback, learner

How to cite this article:
Panchbhai A, Vagha S, Bhowate R. Perception of students and faculties regarding the formative assessment examinations in dental college in India. J Educ Ethics Dent 2014;4:47-53

How to cite this URL:
Panchbhai A, Vagha S, Bhowate R. Perception of students and faculties regarding the formative assessment examinations in dental college in India. J Educ Ethics Dent [serial online] 2014 [cited 2019 Sep 21];4:47-53. Available from: http://www.jeed.in/text.asp?2014/4/2/47/148985



   Introduction Top


The importance of student assessment is highlighted from ancient times. It is one of the mandatory elements in teaching-learning process. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] Traditionally, only the summative examinations were conducted at the end of the term or the academic year. Later on, the interim examinations were introduced in the medical curriculum in the form of internal assessment or the part completion tests that should be formative in nature. [6],[7],[8],[9],[10]

Formative assessment (FA) is an integral part of educational process and is always going to be the matter of concern as a part of continuing education as it relates to identification of students learning needs and optimization of student learning in turn to relate to reforms in education to improve the student performance. Thus, FA is one of the key elements to improve the student performance. As an educationist, we are concerned about many things while performing the student assessment such as deficiencies in students, needs of the students, problems faced by them about the system, content, instructional methods, efforts made by the students and the scope for the improvement in them.

Assessment refers mainly to a person and can be put up as ''Systematic basis for making inference about the learning and development of students.'' [11],[12] The assessment can be further divided into the ''Formative assessment (FA) and the summative assessment (SA).'' In this paper, the term formative assessment refers to assessment to assist the teacher in forming new lessons in response to students' needs and to improve and aid in students learning, while a summative assessment comes at the end for a summary to assign the final score or grade to the student. [1],[7],[13]

There is a need to assess student progress throughout the academic year while there is still time to implement interventions that increase student learning. [1],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] Keeping this in mind, the formative examinations were introduced as a components of the internal assessment examinations. Additionally, preparing for the formative examinations will help the students to keep pace with syllabus being covered and will provide enough time to realize the difficulties and modes to overcome them. Thus, assessments were implemented considering that it will drive students learning in efficient and effective way. [4],[7] To be truly effective, assessment needs to be "formative" -in other words, identifying and responding to the students' learning needs. The formative basically refers to the ongoing process; it involves understanding or improving the existing process. It is basically a ''process-focused assessment'' against the summative which is outcome-focused assessment. Hence, it starts at the inception of the educational activity to help the learners achieve the learning goals or to know the deficiencies in learner, staff, content or instructional process. [7]

The FA constituted of three processes as its key elements, "the assessment of student responses, providing explicit feedback to the students and its application, in terms of its utilization to address the student difficulties through remediation in teaching-learning process. FA is the complex process, needs to be comprehensive and carries the phenomenal importance.

There are always concerns among the students as well as faculty in regards to the current FA practises in the institute to give a way to various queries as when FAs should be conducted, what should be the format, how much should be the frequency of assessment, how should be the time management or are they really effective, are pupils learning enough or learning it well? Considering these, it is essential to know whether they are satisfied with current scenario or what are their expectations from the assessment programs. In view of this, the present study is conducted to know the perception of students and faculties about the formative examinations in terms of their frequency, nature, components, awareness, utility, its role and effectiveness in educational process.

Enduring change necessitates the support of all the stakeholders. The students and faculties are the crucial elements of educational process; hence it is necessary to obtain their views. The previous studies have focused on obtaining the students' perception, but the same attention has not been paid to teachers' perceptions, considering this the present study has also included faculty.

The objectives with which the present study was conducted are as follows:

  • To explore the students' perception about formative assessments
  • To explore the faculty's' perception about formative assessments
  • To analyse and compare the faculty and students' perception about formative assessments



   Materials and Methods Top


The present ethics committee approved the prospective cross sectional study was carried out for 74 participants. The 70 students of 3rd year, Bachelor of Dental surgery (BDS), and 4 faculties involved in teaching the subjects of Oral medicine & Radiology for 3rd BDS were recruited for the study based on their voluntary participation. At the outset, the informed consents were obtained from the study participants.

Eligibility criteria

Inclusion Criteria: The 3rd BDS students who appeared for at least two scheduled formative examinations in the 3rd year

Exclusion Criteria:
Irregular, uncooperative students and those who did not appear for two scheduled examinations in a year

The study participants were subjected to three research instruments as follows:

  1. Questionnaire:

    1. Close-ended response questions
    2. ii. Open ended response questions


  2. Focus Group Discussion (FGD)
  3. Individual Interview (I I)


The routine FA practices for BDS course in our University can be explained as the students appear for three part completion tests or formative examinations in a year. The students are oriented in advance about the FA, SA and their yearly schedule during the fresher's induction program. These exams are conducted as theory and practical/clinical examination. The theory exam includes the multiple choice questions, short and long answer questions. The clinical examination includes viva-voce and clinical exercise. After every exam, the students are shown their theory papers. For theory, the formative assessment is done while valuation as well as while the student goes through valued answer sheet. The correct responses to all the items are told to them which give them immediate feedback about their score. Then, most frequent errors are commented on. The students may come individually with their answer sheet and the feedback about performance and the suggestions toward the improvement are given to them. For clinics, the FA is done while or after the examination immediately. The feedback about their performance is given simultaneously.

For this batch, the formative assessments were conducted in the month of September 2012, January 2013 and April 2013. The university exam was scheduled in the month of June 2013. The study protocol is illustrated in the flow chart [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Flow chart for study protocol

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The quantitative (objective) and qualitative (subjective) data were collected using questionnaire, group discussion and individual interview. The 70 students and 4 faculties appeared for questionnaire that has close-ended and open ended response questions. The reliability and the internal consistency of the test items were measured by Cronbachs alpha. The close ended questionnaires had nine items and were based mainly on Likert scale while the open-ended questionnaire had six items. A five-point Likert scale allows for the selection of range of responses as it is the assessment of perception and it also provides the ease of quantitative data analysis. [14],[15] The questionnaire had items to obtain general perception on FA and perception regarding the format (structure and mechanics) of formative examinations.

For FGD, out of 70, 40 students volunteered and appeared for the discussions along with four faculties as per the schedules. The FGDs were carried out in eight groups of five students each in scheduled batches and on scheduled time at predetermined venue. As similar, a group of four faculties was made for group discussion. The time for the activity was 45-90 min but could be variable depending on the involvement of the participants. Following all the norms of FGD, the groups were subjected to the set of questions mentioned in the discussion guide. The issues came out in open-ended questions were explored further to seek their elaborated views especially on the format referring to mechanics of FA.

For individual interview, 24 students and all the faculties volunteered for participation. The semi-structured individual interviews were conducted to probe on further to obtain in depth perception of participants with special emphasis on the frequency, time and the stress issues related to the FA. The interviews were lasted for 10-30 min.

Altogether, out of three research instruments, the perception was obtained on the themes as:

  • Need/utility of FA
  • Whether FA improves the performance
  • Format of FA
  • Feedback practices and student reaction to feedback
  • Need of innovation
  • Frequency of FA
  • Time management related to FA
  • Stress issues related to FA
  • Any other suggestion/comment


The quantitative and qualitative data analysis was carried out; the quantitative data were represented by close-ended items while qualitative data were represented by open-ended questionnaire, FGDs and individual interviews. The quantitative data were subjected to the descriptive analysis and factor analysis while the qualitative data were subjected to thematic and descriptive analysis. The statistical analysis was done using SPSS 17.0 software. The factor analysis was performed to check the quality and integrity of the questionnaire and to see whether the factors are conceptually fitting together or not. It was based on Keyser-Meyer-Olkins (KMO) measure and Bartlett's Test. Keyser-Meyer-Olkins (KMO) measure showed the sampling adequacy of factors and it shows that enough items are predicted by each factor. The Barlett's test is significant, this means that variables are correlated highly enough to provide a reasonable basis for factor analysis. In descriptive analysis, the response rate for the questionnaire was analysed. The number of responses to each item were calculated in percentage and tabulated. For qualitative data analysis, the responses were analysed by coding them into various categories. The initial coding identified the number of basic themes which were narrowed down to organizing themes which were then condensed into the global themes to come to conclusion. In addition, the differences in perception of male and female participants were analysed by the Chi square test.


   Results Top


Overall, the response to the questionnaire was very encouraging about the utility of formative examination with minor percentage (8.5%) of the students being neutral toward it. Both the students and the faculties were in the favor that assessment is necessary component of students learning. [Table 1] summarizes the responses in all research instruments.
Table 1: Responses to ''Whether FA is necessary''

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The 94.28% students agreed that there should be some drive to compel the students to study; the formative examination being the strongest in them, while 4-6% did not agree to this. Additionally, 94.2% of the students recommended that curriculum programs should include the implementation of formative assessments. The students strongly agreed that FAs are of help to them (48.5%) and that FA improve the student's knowledge and skill (47.1%). However, few students did not agree to this and mentioned that they can study even in the absence of compelling tools as FAs and hence were neutral toward their implementation.

For the item "what way FA improves the performance," there was so much overlap of the response categories that the percentage of each could not be drawn out. However, maximum students opined for that ''it points out stronger and weaker points'' and ''through feedback tells about the performance and help in understanding the subject.'' [Table 2] aggregates the student responses with the maximum response rate.
Table 2: Responses to ''What way FA improves performance''

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The response for the frequency of FA was extremely variable ranging from ''Daily to only twice in the year'' [Graph 1]. The maximum students (57.14%) found the current frequency of 3 FA in a year to be adequate while 15.71% found it excess and opined that it should be conducted only twice in the year. While in FGD, 91.4% expressed that it should be thrice in a year. The faculty did not choose for any frequency and expressed that it should not encroach over the routine teaching and learning activities. If it involves the modular teaching then it should be done at the end of each module.



While relating the frequency to time and stress issues, the study participants mentioned that presently FAs are approximately term wise and are thus spaced properly. It helps in time management to complete portion phase wise as per exam schedules, in turn reduces the stress.

Regarding the format of FA, the majority of the participants found the present way of conduction of FA to be satisfactory with some variation as shown in [Table 3]. Few students expressed that although the purpose of FA is to improve the learning and performance it should be conducted in similar manner as SA. Considering the need for introduction of innovative techniques in FA, the majority of the students were neutral in their responses, very few students gave responses as it should be in the objective forms or puzzles or one to one interactive assessment. While faculty did not favor its routine intervention in student assessment.
Table 3: Responses to ''What should be the format of FA''?

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For the item "What way students react to the feedback," the students expressed that the suggestions and feedback they receive from the assessor were taken very positively by the student. On asking whether they are taking any efforts toward the weaker areas, there were mixed responses [Graph 2], while, faculty denied the students' seriousness toward these.



Gender wise, the differences did not reach to significance in any of the observations.

Comparison of student and faculty responses

While comparing the students and faculty's responses, it was observed that for most of the items, the perceptions were in alignment to each other. The disparity was found in the item ''How students react to feedback received in FA.'' The faculty mentioned that the students are taking them very casually and do not work toward their weaknesses. Most of the students appear for the FA as a task to be undertaken compulsorily without shaving any motivation toward it. Besides, faculty strongly refused the introduction of innovative technique in conduction of FA in the fear of restricted knowledge gain. Faculty also emphasized on testing of higher domains of learning.


   Discussion Top


In the present study, the quantitative and qualitative approach with multiple research instruments was used to generate a rich understanding of the full range of opinions and experiences of students and faculties in regards to FA. The study participants [Additional file 1]came out freely with their opinions in the group discussions and interviews as compared to that in written questionnaires. The qualitative data have allowed elaborating for every considered dimensions of FA and provided greater insight into the students and faculty's perception about formative examinations.

The literature review suggests that most of the studies on FA are conducted to assess the level of performance after FA and quality, role of feedback in FA. Very few studies are conducted to obtain the perception of students about FA without giving consideration to faculty's perception; hence data to compare are not available to the significance. Remirez et al.[16] emphasized that learning improves when the learner is mentally actively engaged in the process of learning; hence the learners' views should be obtained.

In faculties'' opinion, the students although they were aware and well-oriented toward FA, they still have not realized its importance to utilize it to the optimum. It suggests the need for further sensitization to enhance its applicability to the learner. According to Price et al.[17] and Maria et al., [18] the feedback is provided as a part of assessment process, it may not have clarity of purpose or meaning to a learner and may carry the potential for the ambiguity in receiving and the interpretation of feedback. Students mentioned that the positive reinforcement while FA inspires them and motivates to study more. The study carried out by Perera et al., [19] stated the importance of adequate student-teacher dialogue sessions that occurs in FA to clarify the issues in studies. In general, the majority of the students and the faculties accepted the utility of FA in the academics. Both of them agreed that it helps in identifying the learning objectives, improves study strategies, keeps active in terms of academic updations and stimulates the multifaceted teaching-learning. These observations are in alignment with study by Kadri et al. [20] Sansgiry et al.[6] also evidenced the interrelationship between perception toward FA, study strategies, self-regulated learning, time management skills and the performance on exams. [Additional file 2]

Regarding the format of FA, the students were satisfied except for few who mentioned that FA should be replica of SA to include all the components of SA. When students appear for SA, they come across some of the elements that are entirely novel to them, this leads to lot of embarrassment among the students. Moreover, faculty wants that FA should also include soft skills assessment to have the holistic development of student as a health professional. Few students also mentioned that the feedback mechanisms be more structured. Faculties also mentioned that there should be some way to assess whether students are really getting benefitted or not. Elena et al.[21] emphasized on the design of FA to be coherent with aims and objectives so that the evaluation be formative. Epstein et al.[13] stressed on the need of standardization of assessment. Although accrediting organizations or councils specify about the areas that the curriculum should cover and assess, the most of the institutes make their own decisions about methods, and thus, the ideal balance between the nationally standardized and the school-specific assessment remains to be determined. Ajobeje [22] and Brown [23] revealed the low status of assessment literacy of teachers and suggested for encouraged faculty participation in the workshop, seminars, conferences or in-service training to enhance their skills for constructing formative test.

In our study, it is remarkable that the students as well as the faculty refused that the current frequency of FA be reduced as it will not give adequate exposure to the exam and will not provide enough opportunity to know the mistakes, hence the redressal. However both of them categorically denied that the number of FA should be increased as they will be taxing to undermine its utility. There should be adequate gap to ponder over the strategies for the next better assessment, and to incorporate the remediation. The frequency of FA likely comes with the time management and the stress issues related to FA. Students who wanted the FA to be conducted only twice in a year mentioned that it is burdensome to give three FA in a year, in contradiction, the rest majority of students expressed that rather exams being spaced properly they make them study regularly, in stepwise manner along with the part completion and thus reduce their stress. Some of the students mentioned that frequency should be increased further ranging from four times in a year to after every posting or even daily. Thus, the responses for frequency were extremely variable. The study by Kadri et al[20] illustrated the similar observation about frequency. Sansgiry et al.[6] also showed that students found it difficult to cope with tension associated with examination if frequency in increased.

In the present study, the students' concern about the academic hours is appreciable in case the frequency is increased as it may intrude on their routine academic activity or clinical hours. It may also lead to anxiety and fatigue related to frequent exams. The results in study by Ghiatau et al.[9] and Brown et al.[24] were in congruent with this finding. There is even the danger that assessment will dominate teaching and learning. Thus, the high frequency of continuous assessment examinations is not always beneficial, as students can reach "learned dependence" by examiners [25] or fear of assessment if "summative aspects contaminate formative ones." [26]

The intention of introducing a new assessment session by university is to enhance the formative role of examinations; however, the increase of frequency does not automatically cause their formative nature to be enhanced. It is observed rather that teachers are tempted to choose a convenient form of evaluation in terms of saving time, i.e. collective written exam. Therefore, they tend to overlook the very purpose of FA and neglect some of the conditions that have to be met by a genuine formative assessment such as the focus on competence; sufficient time allocation for tasks preparation; personalized and detailed feedback, synchronization with students' learning efforts and focus on the learning goals. [27] In study by Gerzina [28] students opined that the written or online assessment may help in preparation but may not be of use to prepare the student as a clinician. It is interesting to know that the students are differentiating between content knowledge required to pass the exam and the application of this content in the clinical setting. This suggests the need of review of assessment questions so as to assess the understanding and application rather than just the recall of scientific concept.

Assessing a need for intervention in FA in the form of quizzes, group assignments, work sheets, journals, diagnostic tests, cross word, puzzles, direct observations, portfolios, video reviews or e-assessments, [5],[13] the majority of the students gave unsure responses. While faculties strongly declined this expressing that the knowledge gain may whirl around the innovative tool; hence there may be a risk of limited gain. They may be introduced as a change in routine or to enhance the student involvement in FA. On the contrary, the results by Handfield-Jones et al., [29] summarized the advantages of using innovation techniques to liven up a topic and students interest.

The suggestions obtained in ''Any other comments or suggestions'' were very crucial. The students mentioned that the exams should be conducted with uniform judging criteria. It should be problem-based for better understanding of subject. The faculty expressed the need to improve the conventional pattern of FA and that entire faculty must be involved in curricular reforms. Both of them suggested that feedback about FA should be taken from the students and concerned staff periodically, and based on that improvement should be done in FA practises in the institute.


   Conclusion Top


The study was undertaken with a purpose to estimate and compare the faculty and students perceptions regarding FA. With few limitations, this has been a comprehensive study to explore all the dimensions of FA. Considering frequency, time and stress issues and the need of innovation, the study has also addressed the practical problems associated with student assessment.

The study revealed that the formative examinations are of importance to the students and faculties. The casual approach of some of the students toward FA suggests the need to increasing their awareness toward these interim assessments for the meaningful and successful academic progression so that they will opt to receive the suggestions or feedback on an individual basis. The formative examinations should be more structured and comprehensive in terms of assessment mechanisms and the feedback practises so as to benefit every learner. As per suggestions of faculty and students, the assessment should have emphasis on application based analytical assessment. Additionally, there should be some formal mechanism to demonstrate how learner had applied feedback or to ensure that the learner is working to overcome the deficiencies.

The present study is one of the few studies that have sought student's as well as teacher's perception. The research proves itself to be appropriate in bringing out the views of student and faculty which will provide the inputs to enrich the teaching learning process and assessment mechanisms. The next study may be conducted including the larger sample size of the faculty and students of other disciplines.

One of the vital aspects the study has brought forward is that periodic views of students and faculties should be obtained; soliciting their perception and ensuring their involvement will deepen their commitment toward this task. The insights gained from this study should promote need to design better strategies to maximize learning of future health professionals.

 
   References Top

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Correspondence Address:
Dr. Arati Panchbhai
Department of Oral Medicine & Radiology, Meghdoot Aptt-5, F1-8, Paloti Road, Sawangi-M, Wardha - 442 001, Maharastra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-7761.148985

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