Professor Studies Peer Learning, Publishes Article on ‘Take-Home Tests’

Heather MillerHIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 26, 2013 – Dr. Heather Miller, assistant professor of biochemistry at High Point University, recently published an original research article in the prestigious journal “Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education.”

Her article, titled “Assessment of a novel group-centered testing schema in an upper-level undergraduate molecular biotechnology course,” describes a research project that assessed student learning and attitudes toward group take-home exams.

Miller’s research found that individual final exam scores were significantly higher for students previously assigned into group take-home exam teams compared to students who worked alone. Interestingly, average (C) performers benefited the most from this peer learning experience, as they showed the most significant increases on their individual final exam scores. Miller notes that this collaborative work style was not only viewed favorably by students, but also reduced grading burden and academic dishonesty cases for faculty.

“Educators will agree that peer learning is beneficial, but we wanted to discover how effective this approach was and which students were benefiting the most,” explains Miller. “This work will influence how students in my classrooms and laboratories are involved in peer learning; whether it is a take-home exam or an in-class case study, I try to maximize the benefits of peer learning and make it a positive experience.”

Miller conducted her study at North Carolina State University, where she previously taught. She says she will continue her research on peer learning at HPU.

Miller’s article, published in the July 2013 journal issue, was co-authored by Dr. Melissa Srougi, postdoctoral teaching associate of biotechnology at NC State University; Dr. Scott Witherow, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Tampa; and Dr. Sue Carson, teaching associate professor of plant biology at NC State University.

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