09 April 2009

Two-stage Cooperative Exams

The idea of a two-staged cooperative exam is that students take the same exam repeatedly during an extended period of time but in different settings. These settings can be individual in the beginning, then working in pairs, or collaboratively in a larger group. The goal is to turn these testing sessions into a learning experience.

Here is an example of how this is implemented in a large class for midterm or final exams: during the first 30 minutes of the class period, the students take a multiple-choice exam with about 20 - 25 questions in it individually. They hand in the answer sheets at the end of the exam. Then right away, they are given the same multiple-choice exam but with added questions in it, and are asked to work on it collaboratively with someone close by for 45 minutes. They can use books, notes, and other resources. The grade of the exam is calculated based on a weighted average (75%) of the first submission and 25% of the second submission of the exam. However, if this grade is less than the grade in the first submission (i.e. from the solo effort alone), then the final score of this exam is based solely on the first submission.

With this simple change in exam format throughout the term, there has been large improvement in the final exam scores from a mean of 74% to 80%, based only on the solo part of the exam. Although it seems that the collaborative component of the exam may have boosted the final score, a statistical comparison with grades from previous years with no collaborative component in the exams shows that there is no dramatic change in grade distribution. The number of students at the bottom rungs of the ladder are fewer with the two-stage cooperative exam strategy, but there is no increase in the upper rungs.


Yuretich, R., Khan, S., Leckie, R., Clement. (March 2001). Active-Learning Methods to Improve Student Performance and Scientific Interest in a Large Introductory Oceanography Course. Journal of Geoscience Education. 49(2), p 111- 119.

Yuretich, R. Accessing Higher-Order Thinking in Large Introductory Science Classes.

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