Assessment as Pedagogy in a Compressed-Format Summer Physics Abroad Program


  • Hsiu-Zu Ho Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Yeana Lam University of California Education Abroad Program
  • Kelly Wahl College of Letters and Science, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Eric Yao School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow
  • Jackie Grant School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex
  • Padraig Dunne School of Physics, University College Dublin



Formative assessment, Pedagogical approaches, Physics education, Study abroad, Compressed format course


This paper examines the impact of assessment and instructional practices in a compressed-format physics abroad program for life science students from a large U.S. university system. Using qualitative case study methodology, the study investigated the major pedagogical functions of assessments and their implications on student learning across three international sites. Findings from interviews, focus groups, and survey responses of international physics instructors indicated that instructors accommodated the unique program format and student cohort by fostering a highly supportive and collaborative environment for frequent formative assessments, feedback, and intervention. These pedagogical developments provide students the opportunity to learn physics intensively and gain disciplinary, metacognitive, and intercultural understanding.


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Author Biographies

Hsiu-Zu Ho, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Hsiu-Zu Ho is Associate Dean of the University of California Education Abroad Program with responsibilities in the academic integration, academic oversight, and faculty engagement across multiple campuses of the university system. She is a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara with research focus on international education and cross-cultural psychology, board member of International Student Exchange Program, and a Fulbright senior scholar research recipient.

Yeana Lam, University of California Education Abroad Program

Dr. Yeana W. Lam is a senior research analyst at the systemwide office of the University of California Education Abroad Program. Her current research focus is on the academic integration of study abroad and the assessment of intercultural learning, cognitive, and psychosocial skills, as well as other learning outcomes in education abroad activities.

Kelly Wahl, College of Letters and Science, University of California, Los Angeles

Kelly Wahl (BA, Stanford; MFA, University of Massachusetts Amherst) has conducted institutional research for over twenty-five years at institutions including research-intensive public universities, medium-sized private universities, and the largest urban community college system in the United States. Among his special interests are data mining studies of student information system data, key performance measure identification and interpretation, and learning outcomes assessment.

Eric Yao, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow

Dr. Eric Yao is a senior lecturer with 15 years experience in teaching and science education scholarship with expertise in maximizing student effort and student self-efficacy. He is a member of the center for computing science education and the astronomy & physics education group. His main area of interest is in holistic student-centered teaching interventions. This encompasses projects ranging from epistemology and learning theories to student data analysis and specific learning and assessment recipes.

Jackie Grant, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex

Dr. Jackie Grant is lead convener, exam board chair, and admissions tutor for Foundation Year in Physics and Engineering. Dr. Grant is also lead convener of Physics Undergraduate Summer School, lead convener of physics and the mathematics associate tutor teaching training module, physics link tutor for International Partner program, and University and College Union Sussex Branch physics representative.

Padraig Dunne, School of Physics, University College Dublin

Dr. Padraig Dunne obtained his PhD in atomic spectroscopy in 1994 from University College Dublin. His research is in the area of laser produced plasmas, where he has over 100 co-authored publications and has supervised over 30 graduate research students. He is the director of the Summer School that UCD (Dublin) runs for University of California students and has significant experience in teaching physics for the life sciences to early undergraduate students.


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How to Cite

Ho, H.-Z., Lam, Y., Wahl, K., Yao, E., Grant, J., & Dunne, P. (2021). Assessment as Pedagogy in a Compressed-Format Summer Physics Abroad Program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 33(1), 63–81.