Exam as an instrument for student-active learning in STEM education – An example from a reliability analysis course


  • Jon T Selvik University of Stavanger
  • Eirik B Abrahamsen University of Stavanger




Exams have a powerful role in higher education typically in the form of summative assessment, where the goal is to evaluate student learning at the end of the course; to test whether the students have achieved the learning objectives. Beyond representing a final activity in the course, exams have a role in giving students exam-relevant problems to solve, and to communicate a set of standards. It can be argued that this problem-solving activity contributes to learning and will make the students better equipped to perform well on the final exam. From the teacher’s perspective, the designing of exams represents a task creating specific awareness to the course content and student capabilities. In this paper, focus is on student activity and in-depth learning, where we investigate a potential to use exams more actively in learning activities prior to the summative assessment. A way suggested in this paper and tested for a reliability analysis (probability and statistics oriented) course, is to have the students design on their own an exam set with solutions, preferably in groups. The students have access to supervision and are given feedback on their product. There is a rationale that this activity may add motivation, and results indicate a positive learning benefit from the initiative, which is also supported by feedback collected from the students in the course evaluation. Main feedback being that it makes them see problems from different perspectives and taking a more active role. Besides, the format to work together with other students on solving a low-stake but value-adding task without direct influence on their grade was appreciated. The way allows for creative thinking and reflection. It extends the traditional use of exams and represents a way in line with problem-based learning thinking.


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Nordic Journal of STEM Education - Full Papers