Opportunities for self-evaluation increase student calibration in an introductory biology course

Jennifer L. Osterhage, Ellen L. Usher, Trisha A. Douin, William M. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Accurate self-evaluation is critical for learning. Calibration describes the relationship between learners’ perception of their performance and their actual performance on a task. Here, we describe two studies aimed at assessing and improving student calibration in a first-semester introductory biology course at a 4-year public institution. Study 1 investigated students’ (n = 310) calibration (the difference between estimated and actual exam performance) across one semester. Students were significantly miscalibrated for the first exam: their predicted scores were, on average, significantly higher than their actual scores. The lowest-performing students had the most inaccurate estimates. Calibration improved with each exam. By the final exam, students underestimated their scores. We initiated a second study in the following semester to examine whether explicitly teaching students about self-evaluation strategies would improve their calibration and performance. Instruction in the experimental section (n = 290) focused on students’ tendency to overestimate their abilities and provided retrieval-practice opportunities. Students in the experimental section showed better calibration and performance on the first exam compared with students in a control section taught by a different instructor during the same semester (n = 251). These findings suggest that simple instructional strategies can increase students’ metacognitive awareness and improve their performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberar16
JournalCBE Life Sciences Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 J. L. Osterhage et al. CBE-Life Sciences Education.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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