Collaborative Quizzing in the Active Learning Classroom

  • Beverly Middle George Mason University
  • Terri Ann Guingab George Mason University
Keywords: active learning


Collaborative learning has numerous benefits (Astin, 1993; Bloom, 2009; Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 2014; Light, 2001; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1998). The strategy of collaborative testing, where students take quizzes in small groups, allows students to learn more by teaching and being taught by their peers, improves confidence, relieves stress and anxiety, and improves performance (Bloom, 2009; Kirkland & Karkhanis, 2017; LoGiudice, Pachai, & Kim, 2015).
NURS 419 is an adult medical-surgical pathophysiology course for the accelerated cohort of nursing students. These students have a previous bachelor’s or graduate degree in another field. Program completion occurs in three semesters. After graduation, all undergraduate nursing students must take a licensure exam to practice nursing. The style of questions on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) are vastly different from testing items they have had in the past. Nursing is an applied science, so the questions involve a higher order of learning objectives including application, analysis, evaluation, synthesis, prioritization and delegation. The goal for utilizing collaborative quizzing was to develop and refine test-taking strategies and critical thinking skills.
This is the first nursing course taught in the Active Learning with Technology (ALT) classroom. Recognizing that articulation of ideas fosters ownership of learning and that academic achievement improves through small group learning, we began allowing collaborative efforts for our Past and Present (P&P) quizzes in the fall of 2017. These are 10-item quizzes administered at the beginning of each class via Blackboard. Questions cover past material and current content. An unexpected benefit to colloaborative quizzing included the ability to listen in on group discussion as students came to consensus on responses. The discussions we witnessed were respectful and inclusive and provided an additional, albeit informal, formative evaluation of student knowledge. Immediately following the quiz an item analysis identified commonly missed questions, forming the basis for class discussion and review. We recommend this strategy of formative evaluation. Low-stakes collaborative quizzing allows exposure to and synthesis of difficult NCLEX testing items. The students also viewed the process favorably in the mid-term and semester-end course evaluations.
Implementation suggestions include allowing two quiz attempts, either group followed by individual attempt or vice versa. Permit various group sizes. Ensure adequate time for question discussion. Lastly, in order to foster appropriate preparation, we suggest that students come to class not knowing whether quizzing will be an individual or group effort.
Several limitations are recognized. Collaborative quizzes may artificially improve grades, allow a safety net for lack of preparation, and a false sense that students understand the material, when in fact, they do not. We also realize that the discussion of questions and rationale has the potential to lead to animosity between group members and confusion regarding the material.

Author Biographies

Beverly Middle, George Mason University
Assistant Professor
Terri Ann Guingab, George Mason University
Terri Ann Guingab, MEd, is an instructional designer supporting faculty, staff, and students in online, online-enhanced, and face to face courses. She manages the CHHS Healthcare Technologies Innovation Lab (Sponsored by Reston Hospital Center) on the Fairfax campus. Terri Ann is a Sloan-C Online Teaching Certificate program alumna and a past recipient of the Distance Education Award (Staff Category) at George Mason University.