June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Educational Research and Methods
15.929.1 - 15.929.11
Open-Book vs. Closed-Book Testing: an Experimental Comparison
This research adds to the ongoing dispute on what is the better method of assessing college students during examinations: open- book or closed- book. The open book assessment method is considered by many to be a realistic method that resembles the actual professional setting of demonstrating acquired knowledge in the field. On the other hand, the closed book assessment method has been used for centuries in traditional institutions as a rigorous method for knowledge assessment. In this research, engineering and business students from a large university in the southwestern United States participated in an experimental comparison designed to determine whether open-book or closed-book is the better approach to access academic knowledge during examinations. The Latin Square experimental design was used to block the variation due to the order in which students received the open-book and closed book treatments, as well as differences in material content tested on the exam. The research study produced mixed results for engineering students that were tested in three different classes: Statics, Mechanics of Materials and Quality Assurance. After adjusting for material content and treatment order differences, in two out of the three classes, the engineering students attained higher scores, a possible indication of achieving a higher learning level, when they were tested in the closed book approach. For the business side, the results indicate that the students attained higher scores, indicating a possible higher learning level, using the open book approach. The implications for this research can be extended to today’s online testing and certification environments, which are typically “open-book”. The open-book nature of online testing is viewed by some as a necessary evil that poses a validity threat, and by others as a simulation of the professional environment. As a direction for future research, this study could be followed up with future experiments that will attempt to reproduce the results in an online environment.
The traditional invigilated closed book approach for testing has been used for generations in various institutions of higher learning. But with the advent of modern technology, the open book format for testing is becoming more common. Controversy exists as to what is the best method of assessing academic learning and performance between these two approaches of testing. Each method has its critics and its supporters. Although the closed book invigilated style is the traditional format that has existed for generations, it is not necessarily problem-free. The main arguments against the closed book format is that this format is irrelevant to real life professional practice, it encourages recall type learning rather than application focused learning, it encourages cheating and it is more costly to administer1. Before presenting our research study in detail, these four arguments are first examined here.
The first argument is that the traditional invigilated closed book format is considered to be unrealistic from actual professional practice. In the engineering field, practicing engineers tend to rely on manuals, technical books, Internet and any other extraneous source to be able to solve real life engineering complex problems. Shine and his associates in their article “In Defense of Open-Book Engineering Degree Examinations” defended the open-book engineering testing
Anaya, L., & Evangelopoulos, N., & Lawani, U. (2010, June), Open Book Vs. Closed Book Testing: An Experimental Comparison Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16901
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