A few professors on The Faculty Lounge described an innovation in giving out exams, aka “the collaborative exam”. While reading the post, to be honest, I became incredibly anxious at the thought of something new yet entirely enthralled at the thought of something new!
(ACK! YAY! HELP! Ooo! AH NOOOO!!!! COOL. NOT COOL. COOL. NOT COOL…)
The general gist of the “collaborative exam” seems to be that the profs are giving students a chance to collaborate by allowing for discussion before the exam on topics or questions that will be asked on the exam. The students then have a chance to make choices: (1) work alone and hope that individual knowledge surpasses the collective knowledge amongst peers, (2) work with friends and hope that collective thinking leads to better knowledge (without, dissolving into distractions, beer pong, chit chats, etc.), or (3) target students known to do well on exams and create super alliances.
Interestingly, one or two profs seem concerned about flattening the curve because students will do better on the exam. On the flipside, I’m thinking, cool, look at that, students (and maybe we could too) are actually LEARNING more if the curves getting flattened. That is a GOOD thing, right? At least, I thought education was about learning materials and how to apply them in real life rather than being sure to beat other students to get a better job…
When it comes to student dynamics, one thing missing here is the fact that, if this exam strategy is not used during the first semester or first year, and if the curve is in place, students have incentive to seek out super alliances. What are these? Likely, groups of students who know they’re in the top of the class, know they exam well, or are on law review together, etc. This is where “knowledge is power” turns into “power begets knowledge”. I don’t see this flattening the curve. But, who knows? Maybe flocking to friends becomes a greater incentive than pushing for the “top”. But, what if, (shocker), a lot of the top students ARE friends already. The horror.