Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Leanne Havis received the Innovative Design Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) for her post-exam assessment model called the Exam Autopsy. The ACJS’s Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship committee honored Havis for this innovative methodology designed to help students study for future tests.
Havis was notified in February that she won the award, and she received her plaque in March.
The ACJS is an international organization for criminal justice practitioners and academics. It was established in 1963 to foster professional and scholarly activities in the field of Criminal Justice.
The Exam Autopsy, which Havis developed a few years ago, provides students with three sources of evaluative insight: self, peer, and instructor. This four-step model (the fourth being a strategy for improvement) provides a richer basis of feedback for students to consider as they analyze the root cause of their poor exam performance, identify whether their current study strategy is indeed working, and if they deem that it is not, formulate a new action plan.
“Students are not often great judges of their abilities. Many incoming students don’t know how to study, and they think they can do it the same as high school,” Havis said. “The Exam Autopsy is an innovative design to help students reflect on their study skills.”
Through the Exam Autopsy exercise, students first self-evaluate in writing by following a series of prompts. Students then review the self-evaluation answers with a peer, which is beneficial to both the students and their peers. The peers then provide feedback in writing and in a face-to-face discussion in class. These two reviews get delivered to the faculty member, who then provides feedback, again in writing and in a face-to-face discussion.
The fourth step is the development of concrete strategies to improve, based on the first three steps. The students reflect on the feedback from three steps and write a final self-evaluation, including concrete, specific steps that they plan to take to do things differently moving forward. If evidence suggests that a particular strategy is effective, students will continue doing the same thing.
Havis asserts that when students are able to assess their own performance effectively and adapt their approaches or strategies as needed, their learning improves. Student feedback regarding the Exam Autopsy has been very encouraging.
“Students need to study harder. They have said that they have never thought about their study habits in this way. They really like the opportunity to talk with their classmates. That has been their favorite part,” said Havis.
Based on the research Havis has conducted over three semesters, statistically significant results from a quantitative analysis of the data suggest that this is a promising strategy to improve student learning. According to Havis, the group of students that used the Exam Autopsy approach was the only one, out of three groups, to see an overall improvement in test scores between the first and second exam.
Exam Autopsy 2.0, which is a new version of the learning tool, is already in the works. It will still be a four-step process, but Havis has changed some of the prompts and this version is geared more for essay tests.