Medical Science Educator

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 255–263 | Cite as

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

  • Youn Seon LimEmail author
Original Research


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.


Formative assessment in self-directed learning Evaluation Attitude survey Self-assessment Teacher education 



The authors would like to thank Joanne Willey, Judith M. Brenner, and Jeffrey B. Bird for their helpful comments and useful suggestions regarding an earlier draft of the evaluation questionnaire.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The institutional review board of Hofstra University determined this study to be exempt.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

40670_2018_687_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science EducationDonald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/NorthwellHempsteadUSA

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