Collaboration in Exam Design

As my last post would indicate, I have been puzzling over how to have the final assessment of my Medieval Art class reflect the kind of collaborative learning I’ve been trying to develop all semester. While I don’t think anything I’ve come up with is all that new, it’s all been new to me. And yesterday I tried an experiment in exam design.

I decided that the students would work in groups of three and design an exam question. It had to be an essay question that would allow students to talk about at least five works of art of their choosing from the semester. There were six groups, so six questions were generated.

They then had to present their question to the class, explaining how they developed it and offering some ideas for answering it. A good discussion followed several of the presentations, with fellow students clarifying how one might answer the question, and offering some ideas on how to better phrase the question.

I have now typed up the questions that they turned in and circulated them to the class. Tomorrow they will vote (by secret ballot) on the question they want. Then, I will choose one additional question that they won’t know about until the day of the exam.

They had worries: what if we all design the same question? I said, we’d figure that out if it happened, but it did not. They all came up with questions that covered the entire semester and main issues we covered. The most amazing thing was how this in-class assignment reflected how much they had learned.

I’m pleased with the questions. I know which one I’ll pick (if they don’t choose it tomorrow). And if they do, there are several others that I think will do nicely.

I am truly proud of this group. I worked them hard and they rose to the challenge every time. We’ll see how they do on “their” exam.


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