How can I use two-stage exams?

How does it align with the module learning outcomes? 

As the content of the exam is not different from that of a traditional summative exam, it should already align with the learning outcomes of the module. It adds an extra element of authentic group work and collaboration that can embed skills which facilitate employability.

Will it be formative or summative? What will the weighting be?

It can be both formative or summative, but would be best to run it as a formative review (perhaps a mock) as a trial if you intend to make it summative so students know what to expect. The optimal weighting of the individual to group element is recommended by the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative  to be 85% to 15 respectively to balance anxiety reduction and effort with incentive not to loaf.

How will I mark it? What criteria will I use? 

You can mark and grade as you would any other exam, with weightings for the individual and group elements.

How will I give feedback?

It reduces the need for extensive feedback as the proportion of right answers will usually increase in the group section of the exam. In post-exam feedback, GTAs can go through difficult questions in seminars or you can explain them in lectures.

How will I set it up?

You should prepare TWO versions of the same paper. This could have some slightly different questions but should be largely the same as the previous one.

The instructor assigns groups in advance

You can allow groups to select themselves but this usually takes more time and is directing after the individual part of the exam. Choosing the groups allows you to allocate strong and weaker students together.

Decide on how much time you want students to spend on the individual and group elements. Take the weighting into consideration when making this decision.

The day of the exam
  • Distribute exams as usual
  • Students should sit in their groups ( to avoid disruption in getting into groups)
  • Once their entire group is present, they are allowed to sit down together. This might not be possible if allocated student numbers and should not take place off-site for these reasons.
During the exam
  • Students complete the individual exam. Once time is up, they must return all individual exams.
  • Only once all individual exams are turned in, a group can request their group exams. They should put their hands up and be given the exam.
  • They complete the group portion
  • As with all exams, ensure clocks are prominent and remind students of time limits.
After the exam
  • Once a group has finished, collect group exams and add them to the group exam pile.
  • You can either make the groups wait until all (or most) of the other groups have finished before letting them leave or they can have the groups leave as they finish.

How will I address potential challenges?

  • Do I need to make any modifications for accessibility/inclusivity? Can I build these into the design?

Some students need extra time in exams or need a quiet environment. Modifications still need to be made for this.

Making the groups as small as possible (3-4 is optimal) helps to reduce the anxiety of group work. However, the students who find group work stressful or who need extra exam time could be given the option of completing the group assignment with (an)other student(s) who had exam modifications or choosing 100% of the weighting to be the individual part of the exam. Although care must be taken to explain the potential benefits of the group aspect and any potential disadvantages in scores by doing so.

  • Do I need to make any modifications for large cohort sizes? Will it be time consuming to set up or mark? Is there anything I can do to modify it to address this?

Exams usually take place in large classes, where invigilators are provided. Invigilators can also act as group monitors, although no tutoring is allowed.  CWSEI suggest not to worry about cheating in the group portion so much but that this should still take place under exam conditions with the same restrictions on notes and mobile devices.

It is more logistically tricky to set up (see above) and slightly more time consuming as it requires students to be sitting in their groups, and requires some time to prepare in advance, particularly the production of two exam papers and allocation of groups.

It will be slightly more time consuming to mark as there will be extra sections of the exam for the group, so depending on the group could increase by approximately 25%. You could choose to make the group portion smaller.  Automated scoring can be used in both sections of the exam.

How will I explain it to the students?

As with all new assessments, students should be made aware of the rationale beforehand.

For students who are concerned about loafing, point out the lower weighting for the group element in addition to the effect of peer norming : in other words  working together to answer questions makes other students realise they are not studying as hard.

One suggestion is for the instructor to have students meet in their groups at least once prior to the exam, ideally to solve some kind of problem in-class or a group assignment out of class. Again, this helps groups get to know each other and start to build trust.