Anatomy and Physiology Exams
Effect of Essay-Style Lecture Quizzes on Student
Performance on Anatomy and Physiology Exams
Janet E. Steele
Department of Biology
University of Nebraska at Kearney
A challenge facing many instructors of large (greater than 100 students) lecture sections
is to encourage students to review course material on a regular basis.
This 9-year study examined
the impact of essay-style lecture quizzes on student performance in a two-semester anatomy and
physiology course sequence.
Results suggest quizzes improved student performance on regular
hourly exams during the first semester of the course but not during the second semester of the
In addition, lecture quizzes did significantly improve student performance on the Human
Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) comprehensive final exam.
The "average" student, in
years when quizzes were not given, ranked in the 56th percentile nationally; whereas, the
"average" student, in years when quizzes were given, ranked in the 72nd percentile nationally on
the HAPS exam.
While very time consuming to grade and process, quizzes allowed the instructor
to get to know more about the ability of individual students in the class, enabling the instructor to
be able to write more valid letters of recommendation.
all students received regular
individual feedback from the instructor, making them feel less distanced from the instructor.
anatomy and physiology, quizzes, standardized exam, student performance
One challenge facing many university professors
is encouraging students to study on a regular basis
rather than cram for lecture exams.
This is especially
true in large lecture classes where students may feel
disconnected from the professor and where regular
attendance and class participation are not included in
the students' final grades.
Inclusion of a series of
lecture quizzes, especially if the quizzes are a
significant part of the students' final grade in the class,
may be a method of encouraging students to study
Quizzes have been shown to have a positive affect
on attendance, reading, and student confidence, and
may reduce student anxiety (Ehrlich, 1995; Ruscio,
2001; Sporer, 2001; Wilder et al., 2001).
the feedback from regular quizzes allows students to
identify areas on which to focus for exams (Sporer,
Quizzes do not, however, appear to improve
reading for comprehension (Johannessen, 1995) or on
student performance on general biology exams
The primary class for which the author has been
responsible for the past 10 years is a sophomore-level,
two-semester anatomy and physiology (A&P) sequence
(A&P I and A&P II).
This class is not part of our
university's general studies curriculum and is
specifically designed to meet the needs of students
pursuing a wide variety of careers in the health
sciences, including chiropractic medicine, dentistry,