On Teaching Fashion: Group Test-Taking

In my last post on teaching fashion at college level, I discussed how I instructed students to write quiz-game-style questions to be used in a class game-playing exercise designed to prepare them for an upcoming exam.  Here is the update to that post and the results of the exam for which the game was a review tool.

Having the students’ write their game questions and play the game in class eased both my work of writing the new exam and the students’ task of preparing for the exam in a number of ways which I discussed in my last teaching post.   As you probably noticed in that last post, I mentioned administering the exam in an unusual way.  The choice I made was to allow the students to take the exam in small groups.

For this small group exam, I allowed them to select their own teams, or work alone if they chose (which no one chose to do this time), and I required them to write on their exams, in addition to their own name,  the names of all of their team members (having the team members’ names there was not related to their exam scores, it was for my later analysis).  I instructed the students to freely discuss the exam questions and possible answers with their team members.  Many of them chose to work in the teams in which they had played the fashion Jeopardy-style game the week before.  As with a typical exam, I required that all electronic devices be turned off (or in silent mode) and stowed out of sight, along with course lecture notes and copies of the course text.

The format of the exam was multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank.  The class had approximately one hour to complete 50 questions valued at 2 points each.  Many of the teams finished before the end of the exam period, which is not unusual when I give an exam of this format to students individually.  The immediate feedback I received at the end of the exam period was largely positive.

In grading the exams, I was surprised to discover:

  • no single student received a perfect score on the exam
  • the average score was 88.9% (lower than I had pre-supposed)
  • the teams did not come to a consensus for each exam question

After the students received their graded exams back, the feedback they had included that they were pleased that they and their team members did not all have identical exams, seeing it as an indication that they completed their exams with some individuality, and that the group approach eased the anxiety of sitting for an exam (I often have students with documented or undocumented text anxiety, which significantly impairs their ability to take a 50-question exam in a typical class period).  A few also admitted to having learned new information while taking the exam with their team.  Learning? While taking an exam?  Wonderful. Assessment and learning can, and often should, happen at the same time.

My next task will be to counterbalance the weight of the exams against solitary projects in order to counteract any possible grade inflation, as 88.9% is a high average. My rationale behind the group exam format was to enhance student learning, build small group communication skills, build community in a small program, and assess students’ knowledge of course material. Overall, these factors contribute to student success.  Is that not the whole purpose of education?  I think it is.

What do you dear readers, former students, and teachers and professors, think of the concept of a group exam?  Have you experienced this as a student?  Have you administered this as an instructor?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Photo Credit:  FIT NY Students, by SusanNYC, Susan Sermoneta.

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  • Amy April 09, 2010 10.18 am

    I am not an instructor but I think that this is a marvelous way to administer a test. I love that everyone had a unique set of answers and that they learned something new when taking the exam. I think this format as well as having a feedback discussion with the students is a great way to gauge what they are actually learning while making it fun and less stressful for all parties involved.

  • Katie April 29, 2010 08.23 am

    This is a wonderful idea! It feels much more real-world than the sit-in-silence-while-your-individual-skills-are-tested test. If we are preparing our students to become critical thinkers beyond school, this test-taking method really helps them practice their problem-solving skills in conjunction with working as or on a team. Thank you for sharing! I think I will consider ways to implement this in my own classroom in the future!

  • Worn Through » On Teaching Fashion: Group Test-Taking, Take Two
    May 21, 2010 - 5:03 am

  • Kathleen May 24, 2010 10.40 am

    I’m glad to see this testing option being explored in schools (I’ve been using it for many years on the job). It is more aligned to the nature and values of the workplace. Individual testing encourages first order processing in problem resolution, fostering a warrior hero culture. Which is great if you’re a hero but what of everyone else? An employer needs a functional working team because no matter how wonderful the hero, he or she can’t get it all done.

    Group testing is valid in different ways, fruit for future study and analysis. Yes, it’s true, given parties will still score lower even with access to the group’s answers. It can be for myriad reasons. One, they could be an outlier with a possible novel solution (an unanticipated right answer) but it’s more common they’re not listening or fail to value or esteem the work of others. Many in this category commonly do sloppy work. That they can’t be motivated to the minimal effort of copying correct answers provided by others (much less contribute themselves) says all you need to know about them.

    The goal of workplace problem resolution can only be reached via second order processing -by its nature a group effort. To be sure, a singular person may be the ignition point but without effective group adoption, there will be no implementation or subsequent execution. And that -execution- is everything. Ideas are a dime a pallet.


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