Assessment in Biology: Trends, Problems and Solutions

Fiona L. Bird

Abstract


Our challenge as biology educators is to design assessment practices which support high quality student learning and result in knowledgeable, critically thinking students who can self-regulate their own learning. A review of the last decade of literature was conducted with the aim of quantifying the type and content of articles written about assessment in biology, identifying the problems currently being investigated by biology educators and discussing some of the solutions being offered and evaluated. The quantitative review found that exams/tests were the most frequently discussed assessment practice and the theme of guidance and feedback provision dominated the research. The major problems addressed in the literature were designing exam questions to better assess higher level cognitive skills, creating opportunities for formative assessment of content, developing critical thinking skills and developing the capacity of students to self-regulate their learning. The review revealed that biology educators have been rigorously reflecting on and evaluating assessment practices, and have implemented curriculum reforms to address these problems. The challenge for the future will be to encourage broader adoption of these assessment practices by academics so that biology students everywhere will graduate well-equipped for the workforce.

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