Monday, November 3, 2008

Exams: All together now?

Group work and exams are perennial topics of interest here at ISW. So has anyone tried to combine these, making use of group exams? I've never done it myself and have a pretty clear idea of why people would avoid it. But has anyone out there tried group exams or evaluations in a philosophy class? If so, what was the format? And was it successful? (Or maybe you've been on the other side: Has anyone been made to take a group exam in a philosophy class?)


  1. I was feeling experimental this semester and so tried the group exam where the first part was individual short answer and the second part was group work on multiple choice. Of course, the students were very excited and the average grades were the best I'd ever seen on a test. I gave a pop quiz a week later with a few of the same questions from the test to see if information was retained, but based on that it didn't look like the information was retained. Overall, I came away thinking it was a negative experience in that a few of the really good students pulled along everyone else.

    However, I would like a more objective way of testing the benefits.

  2. I'm trying a group quiz approach this semester in my Critical Thinking course, based on the approach discussed earlier on this blog. The students take a 30 minute quiz with relatively short but open-ended questions (e.g., "Which fallacy does this argument commit? Define the fallacy and explain how this argument fits the definition"). When they're done, they get into their groups, and each group takes the same quiz. (Each student's grade is the greater of either their individual score or a weighted average of their individual and groups scores.)

    It's too early to tell whether it's doing any good. Some groups seems to have lively discussions about the questions. In other groups, one or two people write and other two or three chat. I've tried to probe students about the usefulness of the quiz format, with some positive responses, but I'm not sure the responses were sincere.

    I'll update this thread in December or January with results from the final exam and students' end-of-course evaluations about the group quizzes.

  3. The original discussion of team based learning mentions Michaelsen, but I didn't see any links to his site. There are some interesting videos there, and a little more detail on the approach:
    Here, also (although focused on the health sciences):

    I've taken a few workshops with Michaelsen, and I find the approach appealing, although I'm troubled by the lack of examples of how this has been used in humanities courses (most examples come from science or business courses). I haven't had a chance to try to incorporate this yet, but I'm seriously considering it.

  4. Thanks for the links, Kimberley. It looks like there's a lot of great information on the OU site, though I can't watch the videos right now. (They require a PC.)

    I have some thoughts on how to incorporate these techniques in humanities classes, but I'll bite my tongue until I've read and digested more the information on their site.


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