GROUP WORK ON MIDTERM AND FINAL EXAMS IN THE REMOTE TEACHING AND LEARNING CONTEXT AND BEYOND
McGill University (CANADA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
Abstract:Developing and conducting suitable assessments and assessment strategies in the remote teaching and learning context (RTLC) in higher education has presented numerous challenges. On one hand, we want to create assessments that are meaningful and engaging while addressing one of the primary purposes of assessment, namely to evaluate student learning. On other hand, the RTLC has raised significant concerns with regards to academic integrity and specifically, whether conducting summative assessments such as midterm and final exams without some form of proctoring encourages greater academic dishonesty.
Different means for conducting midterm and final exams in the RTLC have been proposed, such as timed exams as well as more open book/take-home style exams. These have been supported by learning management systems which have been used for distribution and collection purposes, and direct administration of the exams. While online proctoring may help reduce occurrences of academic dishonesty (at the expense of raising other issues), many instructors are still concerned with academic integrity. To alleviate these concerns, strategies such as randomizing the order of questions or creating multiple versions of an exam have been considered.
This paper describes the use and encouragement of group work for midterm and final exams during the RTLC in a core first-year course in electrical engineering. The course uses a flipped learning strategy and involves significant group work (e.g., using breakout rooms in Zoom). Students worked in the same group from the start of the semester and had numerous opportunities to engage in peer instruction and problem solving. They were encouraged to consult and work collaboratively with their group only on low stakes assessments such as in-class quizzes. This collaborative learning approach was also used on midterm and final exams, which were open book/take-home in nature (though an individual submission was required from each student).
We examined the performance of students taught in the RTLC compared to that of students taught in-person in previous semesters. For the midterm exam, we observed a negligible difference in the average grades from the different classes; in other words, allowing/promoting group work did not result in a noticeable inflation in student grades. On the other hand, for the final exam, the average grades were generally higher in the RTLC.
We also examined student responses to reflective writing exercise conducted after the midterm and final exams for students in the RTLC. Specific questions were asked to guide the reflection, e.g., which questions they found most challenging, whether they consulted with other students, and whether they would have been able to resolve the question without consultation. Many students responded that they did not consult with others; this was also evident by comparing their solutions to those of others in their group. For those who indicated that they had consulted, they highlighted how collaborative learning allowed them to address their confusions, give them greater confidence in their responses, and helped them meet specific learning objectives/outcomes.
By reducing anxiety and stress associated with midterm and final exams, the collaborative framework also appears to have reduced occurrences of academic dishonesty and assisted with student learning, and is an approach to consider beyond the RTLC.
Keywords: Assessments, collaborative learning, remote teaching and learning.