Team Midterms

To turn midterms from a stressful solo judgmental activity into a pedagogical tool, the instructor implemented a team component to the midterm.

Goal: The goal is to make midterms a learning experience (in addition to an evaluative experience).

Before class.

  • The instructor preassigns groups of 3

In Class.

  • The instructor gives a philosophical introduction about how real science is about teamwork, so it is just as important for students to practice their teamwork and communication skills as it is for them to practice their individual problem solving skills.
  • Then, the students have 60 minutes to work through the midterm individually and hand it in.
  • Next, the team component of the midterm begins where they immediately move into their preassigned groups of 3, and start the exam over with a blank copy of the same midterm to complete as a team.
  • Most teams turn in their exams early, with smiles.
  • Finally, their grade is a weighted average of the 2 exams. This reduces the stress of the solo component, and gives them immediate feedback on how to solve the challenging problems, so they can cement new understanding in real time (instead of hoping that they'll have the time and emotional energy to learn something a week later when the exams are handed back).

Comments:

  • The instructor finds that the team scores were almost always higher than the solo scores, even when the handwriting of the team exam is not the same as the handwriting of the highest individual scorer.
  • According to the instructors feedback, the vast majority of the class felt that it was a positive learning experience.
  • The instructor recommends finding a 2hour block of time to carry out this activity
  • The instructor also recommends assigning the groups & seating arrangement in advance and using online resources to streamline the process.

Submitted by Jenny Hoffman, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)