Assessment of learning gains associated with independent exam analysis in introductory biology

CBE Life Sci Educ. Winter 2011;10(4):346-56. doi: 10.1187/cbe.11-03-0025.


This study evaluates the impact of an independent postmidterm question analysis exercise on the ability of students to answer subsequent exam questions on the same topics. It was conducted in three sections (∼400 students/section) of introductory biology. Graded midterms were returned electronically, and each student was assigned a subset of questions answered incorrectly by more than 40% of the class to analyze as homework. The majority of questions were at Bloom's application/analysis level; this exercise therefore emphasized learning at these higher levels of cognition. Students in each section answered final exam questions matched by topic to all homework questions, providing a within-class control group for each question. The percentage of students who correctly answered the matched final exam question was significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the Topic Analysis versus Control Analysis group for seven of 19 questions. We identified two factors that influenced activity effectiveness: 1) similarity in topic emphasis of the midterm-final exam question pair and 2) quality of the completed analysis homework. Our data suggest that this easy-to-implement exercise will be useful in large-enrollment classes to help students develop self-regulated learning skills. Additional strategies to help introductory students gain a broader understanding of topic areas are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Biology / education*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Teaching / methods