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Exploring how the decisions of instructors make when crafting exams impact students
Christian Wright, PhD
ASU School of Life Sciences
Instructor-generated exams in undergraduate biology classrooms can often be one of the primary means by which student course grades are determined. Unfortunately, numerous studies, mostly at the K-12 level, have shown that the way in which exams are designed can differentially impact cohorts of students. Despite the importance of exams in undergraduate biology and, more broadly, college-level classrooms, there is a paucity of research exploring the explicit decisions instructors at the college level make when crafting their exams and their rationale for these decisions. Furthermore, there is limited work at the college level and especially within biology examining the potential consequences of these decisions on students. Using a mix of both qualitative and quantitative research, this talk will focus on exploring 1) how and why college-level biology instructors craft their exams the way they do and 2) how said decisions can impact student performance at the exam and question level. The talk will conclude with an explanation of potential implications of this research, suggestions of instructional strategies biology instructors can use to help mitigate observed differences in student performance, and a discussion of critical next steps in assessment research.
Dr. Christian Wright is interested in examining how exams impact college-level students, not only in terms of performance, but also student affect and student approaches to learning as well as what underlying mechanisms drive these patterns, the decisions that instructors make when crafting exams and the factors that lead to these decisions, and identifying instructor-level and student-level interventions aimed at eliminating gaps between cohorts of students. He is also interested in curriculum reform more broadly and is currently working as part of a multi-institution, NSF-funded project the goal of which is to create a series of programmatic assessments that will allow biology departments to evaluate students’ conceptual understanding of biology as they progress through a 4-year major. He teaches introductory biology as well as graduate courses focused on teaching students about research-based teaching strategies.
This presentation is part of the Evidence-Based Teaching in STEM Seminar Series. Register for BIO494/BIO598 to earn credit!