Students’ Perception of Formative Assessment as an Instructional Tool in Medical Education

Publication Date


Journal Title

Med Sci Edu


© 2019, International Association of Medical Science Educators. In self-directed learning environments, students must monitor and assess their learning progress themselves. Formative assessments play a central role as instructional tools to train students in these self-assessment skills. Key to the effectiveness of a formative assessment as a training instrument is the degree of student involvement in the design and implementation of the formative assessment used to train them. Five characteristics are essential to secure a sufficient level of student involvement: (1) congruence (i.e., the tasks of a formative assessment must reflect the instructional content), (2) authenticity (i.e., the tasks of a formative assessment should be related to students’ background and study context), (3) consultation (i.e., students should have a say in how their answers are evaluated based on which criteria), (4) transparency (i.e., no “mystery items”—the wording of the items must clearly addresses the targeted content), and (5) accommodation (i.e., all students should have the same chance to complete the items of a formative assessment). These five characteristics of student involvement were used to evaluate the quality of formative assessments that are employed to train undergraduates in a medical school in self-assessment skills. Different from extant approaches that typically rely on instructors’ judgments to infer the degree of student involvement, this study uses a paradigm in higher educational research asking students directly about their perceptions of an instructional tool. Thus, here, students had to rate their level of involvement in the design and implementation of the formative assessments used to train them. A total of 140 medical students participated in the study. Multivariate statistical methods were used to analyze the data. The majority of medical students appreciate the use of formative assessments to teach them self-directed learning skills; but the results also show that there is still room for increasing student involvement—especially, for minority students.

Volume Number


Issue Number



255 - 263

Document Type





School of Medicine

Primary Department

Science Education




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