Cooperative Testing and Grading in High Schools (Gymnasium)

Compared to Germany where state-based exit examinations (Zentralabitur) are used in most states in order to reach a higher standardization in grading, teachers in Switzerland’s high schools have started to design and/or correct and evaluate exams in classes and at the end of high schools based on predetermined criteria. Aims of the so-called Cooperative Testing and Grading are the binding character of the conditions and performance requirements in the exams, the better comparison of the school grades and the professionalization of the teachers. The implementation of Standardized Grading, however, varies across schools and states (i.e. depending on subject, mode of introduction, or integrated actors). To date, there is lack of empirical research on the effectiveness of the different procedures.

In the present study specific configurations of Cooperative Testing and Grading are investigated and compared. Each case is first studied by itself and, in a second step, across schools. By comparing cases opportunities and limitations of the specific configurations are carved out. Practical implications are discussed.

The focus lies in the following four research areas:

  1. Baseline study: a. In a first step, we need to understand the structure of the applied process of Cooperative Testing and Grading in the different schools. For example, which process features and standards are being applied? Which actors can be identified? How many teachers of the schools are involved? To what extent are they involved in the process? That is, which functions do they have and what tasks are they involved in? Are there fixed agreements in certain areas? Are they binding? How often are different forms of Cooperative Testing and Grading implemented?
  2. Implementation analysis: a. In a second step, we aim at investigating the implementation of Cooperative Testing and Grading. On the one hand, we need to understand how Cooperative Testing and Grading was introduced in the different schools, which factors led to a successful implementation of Cooperative Testing and Grading, which difficulties arose and how they were addressed. On the other hand, we aim at understanding how Cooperative Testing and Grading can be sustainably embedded in schools from the actors’ perspectives. Of further interest is which processes of professionalization are suitable and which support is needed by the schools and the actors.
  3. Process analysis: a. In this field of research, the underlying structure of Cooperative Testing and Grading is examined. The focus lies on the actors, that is, the governing bodies of the schools, teachers and students. Their statements should shed light on how Cooperative Testing and Grading is anchored and applied in the schools and which challenges are faced. Furthermore, factors and processes that make Cooperative Testing and Grading successful are identified. The underlying assumption is that the various perspectives elucidate differing aspects of Cooperative Testing and Grading. Furthermore, our analyses are not based on the idea that there exists one “best practice”. Rather, the assumption is that the different configurations have their advantages and disadvantages that must be identified and weighed according to the aims of Cooperative Testing and Grading.
  4. Effectiveness analysis: a. Finally, we focus on the perceived effectiveness of Cooperative Testing and Grading with regard to teaching, evaluation processes, learning success in high school and professionalization of teachers. In this pilot study, effectiveness is measured from the perspective of the actors. We not only aim at identifying intended effects but also unintended effects (i.e. teaching-to-the-test, an over-/underchallenging of the students, emotional and motivation strains for teachers).

Data is based on 15 group discussions with five to six teachers in four high schools of the German-speaking part of Switzerland (Canton of Berne, Canton of Basel, Canton of St. Gallen, Canton of Lucerne). Structured qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2008) was used to analyse the data, both case-specific and across cases. Data was collected between September 2012 and February 2013. First results were presented in a workshop in June 2013, attended by representatives of the schools and the wbz (Schweizerische Zentralstelle für die Weiterbildung der Mittelschullehrpersonen). More in-depth analysis will be published in a planned monograph in 2014.