The Research Digest, November 2015, Issue 50

The Research Digest highlights new research in learning and teaching. This month, we are highlighting recent work on the use of open book exams. This issue was developed in conjunction with November’s issue of Best Practices on Open Book Exams. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, or have any suggestions for us, please send an email to lto@ryerson.ca. To access past issues of the Research Digest, visit the LTO website.

New research on the use of open book exams:

Assessments: an open and closed case
International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 2015
Open book assessment is not a new idea, but it does not seem to have gained ground in higher education. In particular, not much literature is available on open book examinations in mathematics and statistics in higher education. The objective of this paper is to investigate the appropriateness of open book assessments in a first-year business statistics course. Data over two semesters of open book assessments provided some interesting results when compared with the closed book assessment regime in the following semester. The relevance of the results is discussed and compared with findings from the literature. The implications of insights gained for further practice in the assessment of mathematics and statistics is also discussed.

Influence of PBL with open-book tests on knowledge retention measured with progress tests
Advances in Health Sciences Education, 2013
The influence of problem-based learning (PBL) and open-book tests on long-term knowledge retention is unclear and subject of discussion. Hypotheses were that PBL as well as open-book tests positively affect long-term knowledge retention. Four progress test results of fifth and sixth-year medical students (n = 1,648) of three medical schools were analyzed. Two schools had PBL driven curricula, and the third one had a traditional curriculum (TC). One of the PBL schools (PBLob) used a combination of open-book (assessing backup knowledge) and closed-book tests (assessing core knowledge); the other two schools (TC and PBLcb) only used closed-book tests. The items of the progress tests were divided into core and backup knowledge. T tests (with Bonferroni correction) were used to analyze differences between curricula. PBL students performed significantly better than TC students on core knowledge (average effect size (av ES) = 0.37–0.74) and PBL students tested with open-book tests scored somewhat higher than PBL students tested without such tests (av ES = 0.23–0.30). Concerning backup knowledge, no differences were found between the scores of the three curricula. Students of the two PBL curricula showed a substantially better long-term knowledge retention than TC students. PBLob students performed somewhat better on core knowledge than PBLcb students. These outcomes suggest that a problem-based instructional approach in particular can stimulate long-term knowledge retention. Distinguishing knowledge into core and backup knowledge and using open-book tests alongside closed-book tests could enhance long-term core knowledge retention.

A Discussion of the Effect of Open-book and Closed-book Exams on Student Achievement in an Introductory Statistics Course
PRIMUS: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies, 2012
The use of open-book tests, closed-book tests, and notecards on tests in an introductory statistics course is described in this article. A review of the literature shows that open-book assessments are universally recognized to reduce anxiety. The literature is mixed however on whether deeper learning or better preparation occurs with open-book exams. This article reviews the Math 300 Statistics course testing policy which evolved from closed-book exams to open-book exams to closed-book exams with notecards. Our experience led to increased student enjoyment of the course while continuing to encourage deeper student learning.

Cheat Sheet or Open-Book? A Comparison of the Effects of Exam Types on Performance, Retention, and Anxiety
Psychology Research, 2012
In its most basic form, open-book assessment refers to students’ use of textbooks, notes, journals, and reference materials while taking tests. Variations of open book assessment include “open-notebook” test-taking, in which students can take only their own notes into the examination room. Sometimes tests can be designated as “partly-open-book,” where some sections of the test are to be answered from memory only, and some sections allow the use of books and notes. The rationale behind open-book assessment in our project was first and foremost to encourage thinking at higher cognitive levels and to promote study and teaching methods that would improve understanding.

Examining the testing effect with open- and closed-book tests
Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2008
Two experiments examined the testing effect with open-book tests, in which students view notes and textbooks while taking the test, and closed-book tests, in which students take the test without viewing notes or textbooks. Subjects studied prose passages and then restudied or took an open- or closed-book test. Taking either kind of test, with feedback, enhanced long-term retention relative to conditions in which subjects restudied material or took a test without feedback. Open-book testing led to better initial performance than closed-book testing, but this benefit did not persist and both types of testing produced equivalent retention on a delayed test. Subjects predicted they would recall more after repeated studying, even though testing enhanced long-term retention more than restudying. These experiments demonstrate that the testing effect occurs with both open- and closed-book tests, and that subjects fail to predict the effectiveness of testing relative to studying in enhancing later recall.

Open-Book Assessment: A Contribution to Improved Learning?
Studies in Educational Evaluation, 2000
In its most basic form, open-book assessment refers to students’ use of textbooks, notes, journals, and reference materials while taking tests. Variations of open book assessment include “open-notebook” test-taking, in which students can take only their own notes into the examination room. Sometimes tests can be designated as “partly-open-book,” where some sections of the test are to be answered from memory only, and some sections allow the use of books and notes. The rationale behind open-book assessment in our project was first and foremost to encourage thinking at higher cognitive levels and to promote study and teaching methods that would improve understanding.

This entry was posted in Research Digest. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *