On Teaching Fashion: Group Test-Taking, Take Two

This post is a follow-up to a previous post on the concept of testing students in small groups.

My basic textiles course recently had their second mid-term examination, giving me another opportunity to test the group test-taking method I experimented with earlier this term.  My favorite part:  as they worked on the exam in their small groups, I was able to listen to the students’ discussions of the merits of potential answers to test questions.  Having the opportunity to eavesdrop on their entire thought processes is invaluable.  I heard them teaching another, jogging each others’ memories, and reasoning things out with one another in their discussions.

“Remember there was that one picture?  Remember the Oberkampf painting?”

“He was the painter.”

“No, he was in the painting.  He was in the town of Jouy.  He owned the factory.”

“Chinoiserie.  The Chinese version of toile?  Asian toile?  The European interpretation?”

There were a few things I chose to do differently this time around, the first being that we did not play the Jeopardy-style quiz game in class as a means for preparation for the exam and I did not have the students write sample test questions.  I instead allowed the students time to meet in groups and studyat the end of the three class periods preceding the exam.

Second, when lecturing on world textiles and textile design history, I gave the students a hand-out with key historical and design terms for note taking, as most of the material was not covered in the text.  It was essentially several pages of key terms with blank space for notes, plus a few examples of historical motifs.  I found that when I listed terms from the hand-out on the exam and asked students to define them, their recall was surprisingly accurate.

As far as the results of the exam go, the average score went down from 88% to 86%, when compared to the previous exam.  When asked their opinion, many students said they found this exam more challenging than the first.  This may be due to the complexity of the material, being that I was testing them on further advanced topics, relative to the introductory concepts tested on in the earlier exam.  Alternatively, they may have found the exam harder because they did not have the opportunity to write sample questions and play the quiz game in preparation.  In a class discussion, consensus seemed to indicate that both contributing factors were considered reasonable explanations for the lower test scores.

One issue which may be of concern is whether poorly prepared students unfairly earn higher test scores by relying on the strength of their better prepared team members, but I find that those who would get lower scores if they had tested alone still tend to get lower scores in a group setting.   Apparently there is truly no substitute for being properly prepared for an exam.

At this point, I am liking the group test taking approach, however, for their final exam, I plan to hybridize it with the traditional solo test taking method.  Their final exam of the course will have some elements for which I will require individual, not group, answers.  I would like to assess the students individually, in addition to asking for a little self-reflection on their parts, by asking them for examples of new information they learned from their group mates during the test taking process.  I will be sure to keep you posted, and let you, dear readers, know the results as soon as I have them.  In the meantime, I have a fierce match of fashion jeopardy planned for next week’s final class meeting.

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  • Brother Beno March 31, 2011 07.31 pm

    As an oral storyteller looking for resources I’m glad I have came across this site that will help me to explain fashions in different time periods as well as anything that can relate to them. I will be returning and checking out your site for I have some ideas for stories just even looking at. Good work I’m glad I found you.

    Brother Beno, Storyteller

  • Daniel Hansen April 02, 2011 09.22 am


    “Apparently there is truly no substitute for being properly prepared for an exam.”

    Well said. There are no shortcuts…

  • Lauren April 04, 2011 02.37 pm

    Brother Beno and Daniel, thank you both, and thank you for reading Worn Though.

  • Sam Weston April 05, 2011 07.42 am

    I must agree with Daniel – when it comes to exams you simply have to put in the work and do your preparation. There really are no short cuts.

  • Judy April 09, 2011 10.04 pm

    Hi Lauren,

    Great post! I remember taking exams in school. It does take a lot of studying. My favorite was the multiple choice questions.

    I like how you play a jeopardy style quiz game to prepare the students for there exams.

  • John Stoves April 19, 2011 02.39 pm

    Great post Lauren! Why do you think that the students that normally get lower scores still do so when they take the test in groups? Wouldn’t they be inclined to agree with their group members? Anyway, I like your hybridization idea, it seems like the best option. I remember playing jeopardy style games in high school, and that always seemed to help.

  • Patrick B April 19, 2011 08.15 pm

    I agree with the people who said there are no shortcuts to being prepared for an exam. I find that studying in groups is harder for me because it tempts me to talk with my friends and waste time. In order for me to do well, I have to spend time completely alone while reviewing material.


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