By Sandra Simpson from Gonzaga University School of Law
Carol Springer Sargent and Andrea Curcio, Empirical Evidence that Formative Assessments Improve Final Exams, 61 Journal of Legal Education 379 (2012) [Read fulltext at Southwestern Law School website (3.2 MB PDF)]
This article reinforces the idea that formative assessments help most students improve their grades and performance on exams. The study performed by the authors provides this reinforcement through evidence that formative assessments do help students improve their performance on final cumulative exams. This addresses some of the concerns regarding integrating formative assessment into large-section, doctrinal classes. Prior studies have shown using formative assessment improved performance on final exams but only for students with above-median LSAT and UGPA numbers. The study performed by the authors and discussed in the article endeavored to build on those previous studies.
The results showed formative assessments had a positive impact on students above and below-the-median first year law school grades. This conclusion is only true, however, if those students were not in the bottom 1/3 of the class in terms of either UGPA or LSAT scores. Those bottom 1/3 students were still unable to take advantage of the formative feedback. Seventy percent of the intervention group, however, benefited nearly one letter grade from the formative assessment materials. This article provides additional scientific evidence that, at least for the top 70% of students, formative assessment improves learning and improves performance on a cumulative final.