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Strategy Submission

Collaborative Exams to Promote Learning Through Teamwork and Collaboration


Katie Morales



Assistant Professor



Berry College


Competency Categories:

Teamwork and Collaboration

Learner Level(s):

Pre-Licensure BSN

Learner Setting(s):


Strategy Type:

General Strategy

Learning Objectives:

The objective for this learning activity was to assess and promote learning individually and through teamwork and collaboration. Teamwork and Collaboration: Knowledge: Describe impact of own communication style on others. Discuss effective strategies for communicating and resolving conflict. Describe own strengths, limitations, and values in functioning as a member of a team. Skill: Solicit input from other team members to improve individual, as well as team, performance. Learning Objectives: 1) Assess and promote learning through teamwork and collaboration. Teamwork and Collaboration: Knowledge: Describe impact of own communication style on others. Discuss effective strategies for communicating and resolving conflict. Describe own strengths, limitations, and values in functioning as a member of a team. Skill: Solicit input from other team members to improve individual, as well as team, performance. Initiate actions to resolve conflict.

Strategy Overview:

This teaching strategy involves collaborative exams to promote learning through teamwork and collaboration. Collaborative exams are an evidence-based practice to help nursing students develop and practice team work and collaboration skills (Improved Class Preparation and Learning Through Immediate Feedback in Group Testing for Undergraduate Nursing Students by Peck, Stehle Werner, and Raleigh [2013]). Collaborative exams incorporate several learning theories (cognitive-developmental behavioral learning, social interdependence, and constructivism). The collaborative exam provides active and collaborative learning, immediate feedback, and structure which appeal to millennial learners. Collaborative exams are an interactive learning strategy allowing students to work together and answer exam questions. The items on the individual exams are developed each semester based on course objectives by the faculty members. Items may be original or from a test bank of previously used items. Test bank items are edited based on past exam analysis. All course faculty should edit course exams for content, clarity, and adherence with course objectives. The exam items and answer options are randomized on both the individual and collaborative exams to reduce the possibility of unplanned collaboration. To prepare the collaborative exam, the faculty simply copy the individual exam as a collaborative exam. Following a test-retest strategy, students take the individual exam again as a member of a small group immediately following the individual exam. In the initial cohort, when offered the opportunity to participate in the collaborative exam, all students elected to participate. Because the collaborative exam promoted group interaction and interpersonal skills, the collaborative exam was adopted in the course and used with all following cohorts since implementation. If a student misses a course exam, he/she must notify the course faculty prior to the exam and have an excused absence for the exam period. If excused, he/she may be given an alternate exam in an alternative format. If a student misses a course exam, he/she forfeits the collaborative exam and, subsequently, the collaborative points. Furthermore, to ensure success in the course and on National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN® exam), students scoring below 80 on any individual exam are given a remediation plan regardless of their collaborative scores. All individual post-exam remediation assignments must be completed prior to the next exam or three points will be deducted retroactively from the student’s grade on the individual exam which required remediation. Procedure Upon completion of the individual exam, students remain quietly (without electronics) in the exam room for the collaborative exam to begin. Collaborative exams occur after each exam. The final exam is not included as it is comprehensive. Students are placed in groups of 4-5. Student placement has included random assignment, assignment based on individual scores, or in learning groups used across the curriculum for the semester. All assignment options have worked well. Students have not reported being assigned groups rather than being allowed to choose their groups as an issue. One person per collaborative group logs into a copy of the individual exam. No other additional group members log into the exam. The team leader submits one exam for the group. As a result, students must reach consensus on the best answer. The collaborative exam allows the faculty to assess and promote learning. To assess learning, collaborative exams are scored in the same manner as the individual exams on a scale of 0-100. To incentivize the students and avoid grade inflation, points are awarded to each student’s individual exam score based on the following: Collaborative score of A (90-100) = 2 points Collaborative score of B (80-89) = 1 point Collaborative score of less than 80 = 0 points Upon completion, the items the group missed on the collaborative exam are displayed. As group members view and discuss the rationales, no other exam reviews are conducted in these courses. Discussion fosters learning among the groups. Students debate, integrate and synthesize course material while it is still foremost in their minds. The collaborative exam allows students to actively engage with the content and one another and obtain instant feedback to correct misconceptions. Immediate feedback is more effective than traditional testing to enhance learning (Peck, Stehle Werner, & Raleigh, 2013). Test-retest methods provide immediate answers to lingering questions, correct misconceptions, and promote retention of knowledge (Hann, Roberts, & Hurley, 2016). Students commented knowing the correct answers immediately was more effective than trying to recall and look up the items after class. Furthermore, immediate feedback from collaborative testing may improve final exam scores. Group collaboration increases learning and enhances critical thinking. Students work together, use active problem solving, and defend their positions. Students improve their analytical skills and critically evaluate the answer options based on group ideas and opinions. Students teach one another as they collaborate and reach consensus on the best answer. Consistent peer to peer deliberate practice may improve retention of student learning (Johnson, 2016). Students develop knowledge and skills for team work and collaboration during the collaborative exam. The students describe the impact of their own communication style on others as they solicit input to improve individual and group performance. The collaborative exam promotes effective communication and conflict resolution. Students were able to speak freely and reported verbal and non-verbal behaviors were appropriate and respectful. Although the author was prepared to initiate actions to resolve conflict, this was never necessary. Debriefing included the lively group discussion and debate regarding each question. Faculty reported fewer negative and argumentative behaviors following the collaborative exams. This learning strategy integrates the QSEN competency of teamwork and collaboration as students identify their own strengths limitations, and values when functioning as a team member. Students assess their personal learning through the collaborative exam. A top performing student learned she had to be more assertive while some lower performing students learned they had misplaced confidence in their knowledge. Additionally, students are offered the Loma Linda (2006) Learning Assistance Program Objective Analysis Worksheet to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses following each exam. In conclusion, the collaborative exam can be easily adapted to any learning setting to promote learning and team work, decrease test anxiety, and motivate students (Hann, Roberts, & Hurley, 2016). The faculty benefit from hearing the group discussion and seeing enthusiasm replace the typical post-test anxiety.

Submitted Materials:

Additional Materials:

Collaborative Exam Evaluation

Selected References
Hann, K., Roberts, T., & Hurley, S. (2016). Collaborative testing as NCLEX enrichment. Nurse Educator,00(0), 1-4. Doi: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000241

Johnson, C.E. (2016). The effect of deliberate practice combined with high-fidelity simulation scenarios on psychomotor skill competency and retention in prelicensure nursing education: A mixed methods study. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Mercer University No. 10302144).

Peck, S., Stehle Werner, J.L., & Raleigh, D.M. (2013). Improved class preparation and learning through immediate feedback in group testing for undergraduate nursing students. Nursing Education Perspectives, 34(6), 400-404. Doi: 10.5480/11-507

Evaluation Description:

Informal student and faculty feedback have been obtained over the three-year period of collaborative exam implementation. The areas explored informally have been included on the Collaborative Exam Evaluation template for student and faculty use.
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