Post-Exam Feedback Practices: An Interprofessional Perspective From Health Science Programs

Monday, 30 October 2017

Tammy D. Barbé, PhD, RN, CNE
Patricia J. Troyan, EdD
Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA, USA

Upon completion of a health science degree, most graduates are required to pass a licensure or certification exam before practicing within their discipline. Prior to taking these “high-stakes” exams, it is expected that the degree program has prepared graduates for successful career entry. This preparation commonly includes administration of multiple-choice exams, as well as additional evaluation methods, modeled after the discipline’s licensure or certification exam.

It is well documented that timely feedback following exams is essential for student learning and cognitive development. However, there is a paucity of research addressing exam feedback processes in the classroom. The delivery of post-exam feedback is commonly fraught with anxiety and high emotionality among students as well as faculty. Anecdotal evidence suggests faculty desire to provide meaningful feedback to students but struggle with implementation.

The purpose of this descriptive, comparative study was to 1) explore the practices and procedures health science faculty use when providing feedback to students after completion of multiple-choice exams and 2) elicit faculty experiences and perceptions regarding the benefits and challenges of providing post-exam feedback. Following institutional review board approval, faculty members within one institution, with multiple health science degree offerings, were invited to participate in the study and asked to complete a 13-item web-based survey.

Forty-one percent (n = 35) of faculty completed the survey. These faculty represented schools of nursing, pharmacy, and health professions. All participants supported post-exam feedback. Practices and procedures varied by participants and by discipline. For example, many participants provided feedback in the classroom setting but the majority provided feedback outside of the classroom setting in small groups or with individual students.

Consistent with current literature, this study demonstrated that the post-exam feedback facilitates students’ learning and retention of concepts, promotes critical thinking, and decreases student anxiety. When asked to identify challenges of providing feedback, participants across all health science programs reported encounters of student incivility.

While most educators agree that post-exam feedback provides a valuable learning experience for students, identification of best practices requires further investigation. Interprofessional collaboration and research is recommended to identify evidence-based practices for post-exam feedback.