A new study released by the University of Minnesota analyzed how an overemphasis on testing expectations can increase or decrease performance gaps depending on the nature of the test.
According to the study, “the exam performance gap itself is reduced when the exams contribute less to the overall course grade.”
The year-long study was based on findings from college students in nine introductory biology courses. Classrooms, where less emphasis was placed on a test-prep instructional model to more of an active learning model, caused test score performance gaps to decrease. Active learning models are those instructional practices where students are more engaged with helping to construct their knowledge based on discovery and inquiry lead by a trained teacher.
The study also found that male students were more likely to do better on high-stakes testing in biology courses than females. According to the authors of the study, modifying the value of exams in order to lower risk improves female performance on these exams, underscoring the fact that for some individuals, performance on exams may not reflect a student’s actual content knowledge. Female students performed better where assessments count less than half of the grade in the course.
The researchers believe reverting to more active learning with assessments could encourage more women to enter the STEM fields.