Background: Active learning strategies such as formative assessment through clinical cases may help to get a deeper learning. We have studied the effect of this kind of online formative assessment in pathophysiology teaching.
Methods: Seven brief clinical cases were used to give formative assessment in the first semester of a pathophysiology course. To evaluate its effect on learning, we analyzed the proportion of students that passed the end of semester exam with a score above 60 over 100. We also analyzed the effect of the intervention according to the students' previous academic performance.
Results: Ninety-six students participated in the study and sat the exam. Sixty-five of them passed it. Students that passed the exam had a higher previous academic performance and had done a higher number of exercises of formative assessment, both in univariate and multivariate analysis. The participants were divided in three groups, according to their previous academic performance. In the intermediate group, the number of cases done by the students who passed the exam was significantly higher than in those who did not pass it (median: 4 versus 0; P = 0.009).
Conclusion: Formative assessment through web-based clinical cases was followed by an improvement of the academic results in pathophysiology, mainly in students with intermediate performance.