Academic journal article College Student Journal

Learn More, Stress Less: Exploring the Benefits of Collaborative Assessment

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Learn More, Stress Less: Exploring the Benefits of Collaborative Assessment

Article excerpt

Many classroom instructors use collaborative learning activities to promote student learning, raise academic achievement, and support cognitive engagement. We conducted a collaborative assessment in a small undergraduate educational psychology course (N = 31) and used survey methodology to explore student perceptions. Taken together, our quantitative and qualitative results support the notion that collaborative assessment can promote collaborative learning, mitigate test anxiety, and make in-class testing a more positive educational experience. We discuss these findings in relation to our observations as the course instructors, and we provide several practical recommendations, as well as study limitations and future directions.

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Social constructivism emphasizes the belief that knowledge is most effectively constructed through social interaction within a socio-cultural context (Cobb, 1994; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991). In collaborative learning, teammates complement and build on each others' views in an attempt to construct shared knowledge and understandings. According to Driscoll (2005), effective collaboration enables insights and solutions to arise synergistically in a rigorous process that involves the development and evaluation of diverse arguments.

Compared to solitary student activities, collaborative (or cooperative) learning methods--such as collaborative assessment (CA), group projects, role-playing activities, and small-group discussions, among others--have been shown to be more effective in promoting critical thinking and understanding, raising academic achievement, supporting transfer and long-term retention of the learned material, and promoting psychological health, social competence, self-esteem, and positive attitudes toward the learning task (Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 1999; Slavin, 1989). More specifically, CA has been found to promote learning, critical thinking, and retention of material, as well as to improve test performance (Cortright, Collins, Rodenbaugh, & DiCarlo, 2003; Jensen, Johnson, & Johnson, 2002; Morgan, 2003; Rao, Collins, & DiCarlo, 2002; Shindler 2004; Zeilik & Morris, 2004; Zimbardo, Butler, & Wolfe, 2003). Additionally, several researchers have reported that CA tends to be more enjoyable for students, reduces test anxiety, and increases student satisfaction, while simultaneously providing students the opportunity to focus on learning and the application of course content (Hodges, 2004; Russo & Warren, 1999; Ioannou & Artino, 2008; Kwok, Ma, Vogel, & Zhou, 2001; Stearns, 1996). For example, Cortright et al. (2003) conducted a CA with a class of 38 undergraduates in an exercise physiology course and examined its effects on retention of course content and test performance. The researchers administered three exams on the same content, with four weeks between each exam. Half of the students (randomly assigned) completed the first exam in groups of three. Results from this case study indicated that student retention of course content was significantly improved across time when students completed the first exam in groups, rather than individually. Cortright et al. (2003) concluded, in part, that CA can be an effective instructional method for enhancing student learning of course content and bolstering their performance on tests. Rao et al. (2002) provided another example of the positive effects of CA. Throughout the semester, students (N = 16) were given quizzes on four different topics in the area of cardiovascular physiology. Students first completed each quiz individually, and then completed the same quiz in groups of two to three students. Student performance was always significantly higher when students completed the quizzes in groups. Furthermore, students reported that group efforts promoted their understanding of the material and rated CA as superior to traditional assessment methods.

Despite these encouraging results, CA is not common in classrooms around the world (Hargreaves, 2007). …

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