“Three Heads are Better than One”: A Mixed Methods Study Describing Nursing Students’ Experiences with Collaborative Testing


Collaborative testing (CT) is an educational strategy that engages groups of students in a process of formative assessment in an effort to foster deeper learning and teamwork skills. Despite the utilization of CT in various postsecondary institutions and in other disciplines, up-take of CT in nursing education has been limited. This mixed methods study used a cross-over design and focus groups to examine, compare and contrast nursing students’ experiences of learning, retention of learning, and teamwork with CT in an undergraduate nursing course.  Social learning theory and the neurobiological understanding of deep learning were the guiding theoretical frameworks. Students were recruited from two sections of an undergraduate course offered in summer session of 2012. A convenience sample of 70 students was acquired. Both sections were taught by the same instructor who utilized consistent resources and instructional techniques. Participating students completed two formative tests; one test was in a CT format and the other in the traditional testing approach.  All students wrote the summative test in the traditional testing format as the CT method is only utilized for formative assessments. Results from this study indicated that CT is an effective learning strategy for formative tests, particularly when weighted appropriately and written in a multiple choice format.  Effective CT formats require sufficient time allotted for group discussion. Future research is warranted to test the longer term retention of course material with the implementation of CT.

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Executive Summary of Research Project

Collaborative testing (CT) is an educational strategy that engages groups of students in formative assessments designed to foster deeper learning and refine students’ teamwork skills (Bloom, 2009; Breedlove, Burkett, & Winfield, 2004; Cortright, Collins, & DiCarlo, 2005; Cortright, Collins, Rodenbaugh, & DiCarlo, 2003; Durrant, Pierson, & Allen, 1985; Foley, 1981; Haberyan, & Barnett, 2010; Hickey, 2006; Kapitanoff, 2009; Lusk & Conkin, 2003; Mitchell & Melton, 2003; Murray, 2010; Rao, Collins & DiCarlo, 2008; Rao & DiCarlo, 2000; Woody, Woody & Bromley, 2008; Zipp, 2007). Although CT is utilized at many postsecondary institutions across Canada, including the University of Manitoba (U of M), the specific use of CT in nursing education programs is currently limited in Manitoba. Since the provision of high quality nursing care in the practice setting is dependent upon strong collaboration between health care professionals, it is essential that nursing educational programs provide ample opportunity for students to hone teamwork skills (Lusk & Conklin, 2003; Pollard & Miers, 2008; Pollard, Miers, & Gilchrist, 2004; Sandahl, 2009, 2010; Wiggs, 2010).

This study was funded by the Professional Foundations Research Fund from the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research and received ethical approval from the Nursing/Education Ethical Review Board at the U of M. In addition, permission to access nursing students was granted by the Faculty of Nursing at the U of M. A mixed methods study, consisting of a cross-over design and focus groups, examined nursing students’ experiences related to teamwork and learning (i.e. retention of knowledge) through CT as well as traditional testing. The target population was nursing students enrolled in an undergraduate nursing course offered in the summer of 2012. Social learning theory and the neurobiological understanding of deep learning were the guiding theoretical frameworks (Bandura, 1986; Caine & Caine, 2006; Ericsson, 2006, 2007; Immordino-Yang & Damasio, 2007). The research questions were: (a) Do CT and traditional test-taking methods produce statistically significant differences in formative test scores among groups of undergraduate nursing students?; (b) Does CT enhance students’ retention of course material?; and (c) What are the educational and group process experiences of undergraduate nursing students when CT is implemented?

In this report, a brief overview of the research design is provided along with results of the study, implications of the findings, and future recommendations.

Bibliography with hyperlinks to articles using Zotero - https://www.zotero.org/groups/collaborative_testing