Collaborative Testing

I was intrigued by a colleague’s post on a type of evaluation practice he termed collaborative testing. Here is a great overview of the technique on his blog page. It is a two-stage evaluation process. In the first stage, students take an individual test and hand it in. Immediately following this test, students get together in small groups and take the test again. Students are able to collaborate and discuss their answers to come up with one test paper between all the members of the small group. For the students’ final score, 85% of their mark comes from their results of the individual exam and 15% of it comes from the collaborative test mark. A student’s grade can only go up from the collaborative mark, not down. Here is a paper outlining this testing process in a bit more detail.

This is an excerpt from the implementation section:

Two-stage exams can be easy to implement and have worked well in many UBC science courses.

Step 1:

Individual, between2/3 and3/4 of the examination time; a standard formal examination that students complete working alone. The score of this test will account for 85% of the student’s grade

Stage 2:

After students turn in their individual exams, small groups solve similar or identical problems during the remainder of the examination time. The score of this test will account for 15% of the student’s grade.

Stage 3:

Grading- the final score is a combination of the above two stages. The collaborative student score in stage 2 cannot lower the student’s score, only increase it.

Some ground rules:

There are specific time limits for how long students have to write the test both individually and when in groups

The instructor will assign students to the small groups

I think this is a fantastic strategy to highlight the importance of learning from one’s mistakes. I think the timing of taking the test again with others immediately after taking the test individually is a brilliant idea; when the material is fresh in one’s mind and there is a high desire to know the test answers and learn what one did well or did poorly.

I plan on trying out this technique at my next opportunity. I am a firm believer in trying to have students learn from their mistakes, and I look forward to seeing how this evaluation technique may assist students in doing this.




In our discussion forum this week, we are talking about the active learning strategy of discussion. One respondent, Adam mentioned a technique he uses to facilitate collaborative discussion called jigsaw. I have never heard of this technique before, and so did a bit of reading, and I think it would be a great addition to foster discussion in some of the courses I teach.

The steps involved in implementing the jigsaw method in the classroom is outlined below:

  1. The instructor introduces a topic that is complex enough to require discussion, but simple enough for students to learn the main concepts fairly quickly. The topic is subdivided into several smaller topics.
  2. Students are assigned one of the divided topics in a small group. These students work together to learn more about this topic and to develop strategies on how to teach fellow students about the new content; becoming “experts” in this topic area.
  3. Students from each expert group then move around to different groups in order to share and teach other group members about their topic. The experts lead a discussion on their particular topic.
  4. When all groups have heard from each of the expert groups, the class reconvenes as a whole
  5. A final discussion is then led by the instructor with the goal of showing students the “big picture” after all the puzzle pieces have been put in place.

I think this technique would be well suited to some of the course material I teach in a couple of theory-based courses. Sometimes the presentation of this material can be a bit dry, but the adoption of the jigsaw method will place the students in the driver’s seat and make the learning process much more active, and hopefully much less tedious.

From example, in a Growth and Development course I teach, I could assign an age range to each small group of students. These students would then research the growth changes that happen at this stage in order to become “experts” on this population. Each group would then teach the other groups in the class until we had learned about developmental changes across the lifespan.

I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagemnet Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Digital Project by Chris Lowe on Learning From Mistakes

Access to the Prezi digital project can be found here

Chris begins his presentation stating that it is not making the mistake that is the issue, it is not learning from the mistake we made that is the problem. We need to be able to embrace failure.

One reason in which we don’t often want to reflect on the mistakes we have made is that it causes us shame. He notes that we need to change the way in which people think and feel about mistakes, so that there is less shame, and more desire to learn and grow from our mistakes.

Chris notes that being able to work through mistakes and learn from the experience translates to increased student success: they learn they can work through mistakes, try again and succeed.

We need to re-think how we teach our students with respect to making mistakes. In the classroom, making a mistake typically correlates to a poor performance and therefore a lower grade. This evaluation practice is not conducive to encouraging students to learn from their mistakes.

Chris outlined some best practice methods to incorporate into the classroom in order to promote an environment where students can learn from mistakes and not necessarily be penalized for them

  1. Give students written feedback when evaluating a paper or assignment, not just a mark
  2. Provide an opportunity for students to re-do their work to correct their mistakes
  3. Improvement must become part of the evaluation process
  4. If a student gives an incorrect answer, don’t go and ask another student, ask the student why they think the way they do
  5. If a student answers a question incorrectly, try not to say they are wrong.
  6. Talk about mistakes and have students talk about mistakes so that there is a normalcy about mistakes created

Let’s give it a go!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Shame and Mistakes

I have been thinking about the connection we have in our society between making a mistake and feeling shame. Why? When academically I know that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning journey, why is it that we feel ashamed when we do something wrong?

In my opinion, shame is a really terrible emotion to experience, and I think the main reason for this is because you feel so badly about yourself. It is defined in Wikipedia as “a painful feeling about oneself as a person.”

In my subject area of teaching rehab assistants, making a mistake could have serious consequences such as a client could fall or become injured. I think the seriousness of the consequences makes the mistake hold that much more weight, and hence the feeling of shame is also greater.

When I think about fostering an environment in my classroom that permits students to make mistakes, I think the emotion of shame needs to be addressed. How can we decrease this deep rooted emotional connection to making mistakes?

I don’t think this is an easy task, and some people may really struggle to ever feel comfortable enough to work through the pain required to open up about a mistake they have made.

In terms of tangible strategies, I think modelling by the instructor that making mistakes is normal is key. I also think that having students share past mistakes to create a sense of “normalcy” around mistakes is helpful. Trying to create a respectful, safe and open classroom environment where students do not feel judged is also paramount. Perhaps even a discussion on shame and the connection this powerful emotion has to mistakes would be effective. I have also outlined a few best practices from a colleague’s digital project in another blog of mine.

However, I think classroom strategies need to go deeper than this. We need to change the way in which we assign marks to students. Currently, making a mistake means a lower grade. When mistakes are made, students do not typically get a chance to try and fix them. How can this be altered given our current system where grading is mandatory and time is limited? I don’t have the answer to this sadly. However, I do plan to take a few baby steps to try and make my evaluation practices less focused on right and wrong. I plan to incorporate more formative assessments in my classes in order to give students a chance to practice the process and hopefully “catch” mistakes and learn from them earlier than later. I also plan to implement in at least one assignment the chance for students to re-do their assignment after it has been marked and resubmit it for additional marks after my feedback has been incorporated.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.