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Express Yourself: The Benefits of Individual Assessment in Undergraduate Education
Unformatted Document Text:  4 student’s individual learning style. Instead of adopting across-the-board recommendation in favor of a particular format, as virtually all of the articles in the literature do, the author argues for individualized assessment by giving students choices during any given exam, as well as for other assessment areas, such as participation. Note: Although the question of examinee choices in testing has been addressed, articles in this strand of the literature generally examine the effects of allowing students to choose from a number of essay exams (e.g. Bridgeman et. al., 1997) or to choose from a larger pool of multiple choice exams. What I propose here is the choice between two completely different exam formats. There is some evidence from studies conducted outside the field of liberal arts that suggests that students’ learning styles do indeed impact their performance on certain exam types. For instance, Brenenstuhl and Catalanello (1976) experimentally tested the relationship between learning styles and students’ performances in discussion groups, experiential labs, and simulation labs in business courses. The authors found that ‘converging learners 3 ’ outperformed others in experiential labs, but did rather badly in discussion groups. ‘Accommodating learners 4 ’ consistently outperformed their peers in simulations. Similarly, Holley and Jenkins (1993) found that accounting students significantly differed in their performance on four different exam types: multiple choice theory, multiple choice quantitative, open-ended theory, and open-ended quantitative. While these findings are certainly useful, it seems reasonable to assume that political science students – or Liberal Arts majors in general – might differ in their learning styles from business and accounting students, and that our discipline could benefit tremendously from further research on the relationship between learning styles and “testing styles.” Therefore, the working hypothesis adopted for this study is: Political science students’ learning styles – minus the effects of gender, age, previous GPA, and experience in the major – significantly contribute to the explanation of performance on different exam formats. Student Survey Results In order to gain a better understanding of assessment techniques and performance from a students’ perspective, the author constructed an 84-item questionnaire that was designed to test 3 Based on Kolb’s learning inventory: Converging learners have ‘abstract conceptualization’ and ‘active experimentation’ as their dominant learning styles. 4 Accommodating learners have ‘concrete experience’ and ‘active experimentation’ as their dominant learning abilities.

Authors: Leithner, Anika.
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4
student’s individual learning style. Instead of adopting across-the-board recommendation in
favor of a particular format, as virtually all of the articles in the literature do, the author argues
for individualized assessment by giving students choices during any given exam, as well as for
other assessment areas, such as participation.
Note: Although the question of examinee choices in testing has been addressed, articles in
this strand of the literature generally examine the effects of allowing students to choose from a
number of essay exams (e.g. Bridgeman et. al., 1997) or to choose from a larger pool of multiple
choice exams. What I propose here is the choice between two completely different exam formats.
There is some evidence from studies conducted outside the field of liberal arts that
suggests that students’ learning styles do indeed impact their performance on certain exam types.
For instance, Brenenstuhl and Catalanello (1976) experimentally tested the relationship between
learning styles and students’ performances in discussion groups, experiential labs, and simulation
labs in business courses. The authors found that ‘converging learners
3
’ outperformed others in
experiential labs, but did rather badly in discussion groups. ‘Accommodating learners
4
consistently outperformed their peers in simulations. Similarly, Holley and Jenkins (1993) found
that accounting students significantly differed in their performance on four different exam types:
multiple choice theory, multiple choice quantitative, open-ended theory, and open-ended
quantitative.
While these findings are certainly useful, it seems reasonable to assume that political
science students – or Liberal Arts majors in general – might differ in their learning styles from
business and accounting students, and that our discipline could benefit tremendously from
further research on the relationship between learning styles and “testing styles.” Therefore, the
working hypothesis adopted for this study is: Political science students’ learning styles – minus
the effects of gender, age, previous GPA, and experience in the major – significantly contribute
to the explanation of performance on different exam formats.
Student Survey Results
In order to gain a better understanding of assessment techniques and performance from a
students’ perspective, the author constructed an 84-item questionnaire that was designed to test
3
Based on Kolb’s learning inventory: Converging learners have ‘abstract conceptualization’ and ‘active
experimentation’ as their dominant learning styles.
4
Accommodating learners have ‘concrete experience’ and ‘active experimentation’ as their dominant learning
abilities.


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