Group Exams and EAL Student Performance

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientMarion Caldecott, Department of Linguistics

Project team: Esma Emmioglu, post-doctoral research assistant and Kayleigh MacMillan, research assistant

Timeframe: January 2013 to June 2013

Funding: $4,800

Course addressed: LING 330 – Phonetics

Poster presentation: View a poster (PDF) describing this project from the 2013 Symposium on Teaching and Learning. 

Description: This project examines the effect of group exams on student performance in LING 330. It also investigates if there is a difference between EAL (English as an Additional Language) and non-EAL students’ performances and opinions about the group exams at the end of the semester.

The project will proceed in several stages. In the first class, a student profile questionnaire will ask students about their course expectations and allow students to self-identify as EAL.  This questionnaire also includes two opinion questions about student opinions toward group exams.  Second, I will design the quizzes, midterm and exam questions such that questions that students struggled with on quizzes are repeated (though not identical) on the midterms and compare the number of correct responses as the semester progresses.   Third, a survey assessing students’ opinions about the group exams will be administered at the end of the semester. This survey measures students’ opinions with regard to the following aspects: enjoyment, anxiety, feedback, preparedness, reasoning, and engagement.

Results will be analyzed to see i) if students’ performance improved over the semester, ii) how students’ opinions about group exams changed, and iii) if there was a difference between EAL and non-EAL students.

Evidence obtained from this project will help to improve the design of the LING courses. The project will provide a greater understanding of student experiences of taking group exams. In addition, given the large percentage of EAL students at SFU and other provincial post secondary institutions, successful strategies for supporting EAL students in their learning may be useful to a range of departments. Linguistics straddles the arts-science divide, so results of this research would also be applicable to both Arts and Science streams..

Questions addressed:

  • Does student performance on a subset of questions improve over the course of the semester?
  • Is there a difference in performance between EAL and non-EAL students?
  • What were the student opinions about group exams (in terms of enjoyment and anxiety, feedback, preparedness, reasoning, and engagement) at the end of the semester? 
  • Was there a difference between EAL and non-EAL students in ‘opinions about group exams’ at the end of the semester?
  • Which aspect of group exams did students find most helpful?  Which hypothesized aspect of learning did they support?

Knowledge sharing: Findings of the study will be shared with colleagues at a departmental colloquium.

Caldecott, M. (2013, June). Do group exams support EAL student learning? Paper presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Annual Conference, Sydney, NS.

Caldecott, M. (2013, May). Do group exams support EAL student learning? Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Embracing Change @SFU, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.