At least once in each unit of my AP Statistics class, I give students the opportunity to work together on some type of product. Sometimes these are just group activities or projects, but sometimes they're an actual group in-class test. Students get to work together on these test questions. And there are very good pedagogical reasons to do so.
I think there's an inherent value in students collaborating together in all aspects of classroom learning. When teachers build in opportunities for student interaction, there is opportunity for more learning and deeper thinking. Students rely less on me, the teacher, and learn to rely more on themselves. In real-life situations, problems are rarely solved by one person working alone. It seems almost silly to me now to think that assessment has to be done only for students working alone.
Group tests and/or assessments can help students who are struggling to keep up with the pack, while still providing a way for those students to contribute. They help students with traditional test anxiety by creating a less stressful environment. They help students clarify their ideas verbally before committing to writing. They help build the notion of community and teamwork in the classroom. They help build opportunity for interesting and amazing discussions between the students. Depending on the strategy, they can help lighten the load for teachers with a large number of students in a course. And, yes, they pretty much eliminate any incentive for students to cheat.
Here are three different ways I use this strategy:
- Test with a Brainstorm Session -- In this strategy, that I borrowed from a colleague, students are given test questions individually. In groups, students get time to read silently to themselves and think about the question, then they get some time to discuss the question(s) with each other. During the brainstorm session, they are not allowed to write or take notes. That time is solely to discuss, listen, and ask questions. Once that time is over, they separate and answer silently by themselves. This is a fantastic way to test more difficult or new tasks. Students find that they get over the hump of how to begin or what procedure to use. Bonus Option: Give students questions that are the same but differ in some small way (different values, using different dataset, etc.).
- Group Test -- Students are given one test for the entire group. Similarly to the first strategy, I give students time to read the question(s) silently or aloud in their group and think about it. Each student must contribute to the answer(s) and be actively engaged. An easy way to demonstrate this is to require each student's handwriting on the paper. [In the photo above, you can see my students working on a group test. In this case, I allowed students to use any resource in their notebooks. Each student took turns writing, calculating, and looking up information so that the conversation about the problem was nonstop by all members.] Bonus Option: Grade the test as the students are working and allow them to correct their mistakes before they have to submit.
- Pyramid Test -- Students are given a test individually as you might do traditionally. On a subsequent day, before they have been given feedback on the first test, they work on part or all of the questions given individually. They discuss and agree on a solution to submit as a group. Just as in the previous method, each group submits one copy with all students' handwriting on the paper. This can be useful to do after-the-fact if you find that many students struggled on a particular question on a test, for example. In terms of grading, you can decide what weight to give each version. Bonus Option: Have students discuss as a class and then submit one class solution.
Just as a note, if you choose to do any kind of group test, it'll likely take longer than a traditional test. I find it takes groups at least twice as long to complete a task than if it were assigned individually due to the time spent discussing until they reach a consensus. In addition, you'll want to make sure students get back all group assessments. I make copies of all graded assessments so that each student has his/her own copy for reference.