Undergraduates can be kept actively engaged through a variety of methods. One important
method involves the use of high-frequency, low-stakes (HFLS) testing. In practice, this involves the
repeated use of evaluation mechanisms that have little impact on a student’s grade. The remainder
of the work presented herein will present some of the advantages of including these testing methods
within a STEM classroom, possible implementation methods, and addressing some of the concerns
often attributed to this pedagogical tool.

Benefits of HFLS
There are a variety of benefits to incorporating these methods into the collegiate classroom. The
key pedagogical feature of low-stakes examinations is that students are exposed to questions
aligned with learning outcomes. By doing so often, it allows learners to make mistakes and to
grasp important concepts with little or no penalty. Furthermore, due to the nature of such assignments, students are able to receive regular feedback, allowing them to self-evaluate their own performance and correct if there are knowledge gaps [1]. Encouraging student reflection can also
lead to enhanced retention of information, even more so if the testing additionally builds on prior
examinations [2]. In addition, by having students consistently evaluated in a low-stress environment, studies show that they are more comfortable during higher-stakes examinations [3]. This can provide additional benefits in the STEM classroom, since understanding and retaining foundational concepts is crucial for long-term success. Regular quizzes ensure that students do not forget
key principles as they progress through the curriculum. Lastly, HFLS can act as a different type of
assessment, one which can cater to individual learning styles and help a wider group of students
better understand and recall information.

Implementations of HFLS methods may use ‘clicker’ devices where students answer questions in
class, regularly scheduled quizzes, or homework assignments that are graded for completion rather
than correctness. Crucially, these assignments should still be given feedback based on the student
responses. It is important to complement summative assessments, such as large projects or final
exams, with formative low-stakes assessments which are designed to give feedback or guide self-learning. These assignments should be predictable (weekly or bi-weekly) which helps students prepare and reduce student anxiety. This can also lead to increased student participation in classes;
attendance increases when learners know there is a quiz that day [4]. Lastly, being transparent
about the learning outcomes allows for students to view assessments as opportunities for personal
growth and understand that making mistakes is a natural part of learning.

It is worth addressing some of the common concerns of HFLS testing. Many of the potential issues involve improper execution that can negatively affect student outcomes. One major issue is that students can feel overwhelmed by the overload in testing. While this can be addressed by
emphasizing the minimal consequences of poor performance, simply adding HFLS examinations
to existing course structures leads to additional work for both instructors and learners. Another
possible concern is an inability to provide effective feedback. These methods require timely responses to student work, otherwise there is little opportunity for learners to correct issues. Lastly, it is important to note that HFLS testing should be supplemental to higher-stakes examinations.
By no means are they meant to replace major midterms or tests, but instead are meant to allow for
early intervention if material has not been properly learned [5].

The presented benefits of HFLS quizzes in educational settings are clear. Implementing these
assessments offers a wealth of advantages for both students and educators. As such, they become
another valuable tool in the pursuit of effective and engaging learning experiences. Students are
provided with a low-stress environment in which they can actively engage with material. Educators
are given a window into student comprehension, enabling them to tailor their teaching strategies
to meet the specific needs of their learners. Ultimately, the incorporation of HFLS testing is not
just a pedagogical strategy; it’s a commitment to the holistic growth of our students. It is an
acknowledgment that education is not a series of high-pressure moments but a journey of discovery
and development, one where overcoming failures and personal growth are more highly valued than
a letter grade awarded at the end of a semester.


[1] Alice F. Healy et al. “The Long-Term Retention of Knowledge and Skills”. English (US).
In: Psychology of Learning and Motivation – Advances in Research and Theory 30.C (1993),
pp. 135–164. ISSN: 0079-7421. DOI: 10.1016/S0079-7421(08)60296-0.

[2] William K. Balzer, Michael E. Doherty, and Raymond O’Connor. “Effects of cognitive feed-
back on performance.” In: Psychological Bulletin 106 (1989), pp. 410–433. URL: https:

[3] Henry Roediger. “Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education: Translational Educational
Science”. In: Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14 (Jan. 2013), pp. 1–3. DOI: 10.

[4] David A. Wilder, William A. Flood, and Wibecke Stromsnes. “The Use of Random Ex-
tra Credit Quizzes to Increase Student Attendance”. In: Journal of Instructional Psychol-
ogy 28 (2001), p. 117. URL: https://api.semanticscholar.org/CorpusID:

[5] Lukas Sotola and Marcus Crede. “Regarding Class Quizzes: a Meta-analytic Synthesis of
Studies on the Relationship Between Frequent Low-Stakes Testing and Class Performance”.
In: Educational Psychology Review 33 (June 2021). DOI: 10 . 1007 / s10648 – 020 –


  • Lucas Buccafusca

    Dr. Lucas Buccafusca is a lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His primary interests are in course development, specifically in restructuring classes to incorporate active teaching elements and multidisciplinary design. His pedagogical research interests focus on improving the quality of collegiate classroom environments and has published works ranging from the use of humor in the classroom, the use of gamification as a learning tool, and weaving artificial intelligence elements into engineering classes.

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