Effect of using two-stage collaborative exams on undergraduate students’ learning in a gateway course for allied health programs



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Implementing and assessing the use of a two-stage high-stakes collaborative exam in a content-driven gateway science course was the focus of this study within a medium-sized institution of higher education in the southwest United States. Gateway courses have historically exhibited high drop and/or failure rates within STEM areas. The theoretical basis of constructivism was used as a foundation for student engagement in problem-based collaborative learning. More learning takes place when students are actively engaged in solving problems, but the solutions are not clear and the science is complex, as there may be no single method or application involved. This study analyzed whether students collaborating on a high-stakes exam made a significant difference in their learning in an undergraduate introductory anatomy and physiology course as measured by the comprehensive final exam delivered a few weeks after the collaboratively-completed test. The practical goal was to increase learning and retention of knowledge of difficult topics in an undergraduate introductory anatomy and physiology course. Further discussion on issues that have strategic relevance within science and health care education is warranted in the push to produce graduates prepared for careers in healthcare, while U.S. policymakers have deemed it a national priority to improve student retention rates.



Collaborative exam, STEM, Gateway courses, Student retention