Does team-based testing promote individual learning?

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Walker, Joshua David

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Team-based testing gives students a chance to earn additional points on individual unit tests by immediately re-taking the test as a team competing against other teams. This instructional approach has enjoyed widening implementation and impressive anecdotal support, but there remains a dearth of empirical studies evaluating its prescribed processes and promoted outcomes. Although the posited effectiveness and appeal of team-based testing seem consistent with the benefits of test-enhanced learning and collaborative learning in general, several limitations are readily apparent. Namely, the current format of the individual and team readiness assurance tests is expressly multiple-choice. Though there are some advantages of this type of question (e.g., ease of administering and grading), the long-term cognitive disadvantage relative to short-answer questions is well documented. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the proposed gain in learning through this format is attributable to the group effect -- be it social or cognitive, or simply to repeated exposure to the test items. Therefore, this study measured the effects of initial test question Format (short-answer vs. multiple-choice), Mode (individual vs. group), and Exposure (once vs. twice) on four delayed measures of learning: Old multiple-choice items (ones students had initially been tested over), Old short-answer items, New multiple-choice items, and New short-answer items. Two weeks after watching a video-recorded lecture, 208 college students took a thirty-item test comprising both the old and new items in multiple-choice and short-answer formats. Results revealed that 1) taking an initial test twice is better than once when the delayed test has old short-answer items or new multiple-choice items, 2) taking an initial short-answer test is better than multiple choice when the delayed test has either old multiple-choice, old short-answer, or new multiple-choice items, and 3) taking an initial team test is no different than taking an individual test when it comes to long-term learning. Particularly noteworthy from these results is how a) the effects of short-answer tests and taking tests twice are not present within Team conditions, and b) taking a multiple-choice test twice is as effective as taking a short-answer test once. Implications are discussed in light of learning theory and instructional practice.



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