Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Oenardi Lawanto


Oenardi Lawanto


Amy Wilson Lopez


Angela Minichiello


Wade Goodridge


Cassandra McCall


Formative assessments have been found to enhance students’ learning across a variety of disciplines, educational levels, and laboratory and classroom settings. Research attributes the positive effects of formative assessments in improving students’ learning to its (backward and forward) testing effects. Moreover, formative assessments provide an extra opportunity to students to assess their learning early in the learning process, reflect on their learning, and identify address learning gaps and misconceptions (if any) using feedback.

However, optional nature of formative assessments and having no stakes associated with them to have any bearing on final grades offers two challenges to capitalize on their benefits. Firstly, optional nature offers a challenge in formative assessment participation and secondly, large enrollment classes particularly in fundamental engineering courses make it difficult to administer frequent formative assessments and provide systematic personalized feedback.

Therefore, purpose of this dissertation research was threefold. Firstly, this research tried to unfold students’ different participation trends in completely optional, online formative assessments with minimal automatic feedback. Secondly, this research assessed relationships between students’ formative assessment participation and summative exam achievement, and how their task value beliefs (i.e., importance, usefulness, and interest) in the course materials moderate these. Lastly, a qualitative investigation into the reasons and motivations behind selected quantitative trends in participation and associations was conducted to identify, explore, and understand these reasons for future improvement.

To achieve purpose this research, sequential explanatory mixed method research design was employed. Quantitative strand of the study assessed relationships between students' formative assessment participation in 12 practice quizzes corresponding to 12 major topics (modules), their task value beliefs, and their achievement scores on three midterm and one final comprehensive examination, in fundamentals of electronics for engineering course at a public sector land grand university in United States, over the course of 8 regular semesters (spring 2018 - fall 2021). Secondary data (of 978 students) for the purpose of this analysis was acquired from academic and instructional services for students' analytics department and registrar office of the educational institution in de-identified form after approval of Institutional Review Board. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 8 students from fall 2021 semester to explore students' reasons and motivations for decisions regarding participating or not participating in formative assessments.

Results of quantitative analysis showed overall participation trend by around 50% students. Gender based differential participation trends showed higher participation from female students. However, relationships between formative assessment participation and summative achievement did not show many significant differences based on gender. Very interesting were the moderation effects of task value beliefs on the relationships between formative assessment participation and students’ summative achievement. Statistically significant positive associations between formative assessment participation and summative achievement were found for students who reported the course materials as important, useful, and/or interesting and vice versa. Research findings have implications for students' self-regulated, self-directed learning.