Laughter in the Aletta Jacobs hall
Experiment with two-stage exams successful
In early December, the master of cultural geography did an experiment. Students got an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the nature, landscape, and heritage exam. Later, they had forty-five minutes to retake it in groups of three. The individual grade was worth 75 percent and the group grade 25 percent – but only if it was higher than the individual one.
‘The two-stage exam took some getting used to’, student Charlotte de Haan says. ‘We often discuss the exam afterwards, but by then it’s too late to change the answers.’ The two-stage exam has led to new insights. ‘You’re forced to listen to your fellow students’ viewpoints and incorporate everything into your own answer. You learn a lot’, says Charlotte.
That was exactly what cultural geography lecturer Peter Groote was going for when he initiated the two-stage exam. ‘I’d often see students discussing the material after the exam. We’d ideally like to see that in the classroom, but that unfortunately doesn’t always happen.’
One advantage of the two-stage exam is the potential for a higher overall grade. But there is another, more important advantage: students retain the material better when they are motivated to join the discussion.
After watching videos of two-stage exams at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Groote was inspired to try it at the RUG.
Most of the students had a higher grade on the group exam than on the individual one. ‘And students were laughing in the exam hall. That never happens! As far as I’m concerned it was a success.’
Charlotte would like to do exams like this more often as well, although she’d prefer to have a little more time to work on them. ‘Other than that it’s great. I really feel like I learned more than I would have just doing the exam on my own, and in the end it’s about what you learn, not about your grade.’