Pros and Cons of Final Exams

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Tuesday marks the beginning of Finals Week at my school.  I’ve been teaching for nine years, and each year I change the way I have administered and developed my midterm and final exam.  I have rarely been required to follow a particular format by my administration, which was a joy but also could be taxing.  I have utilized objective assessment formats: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching; subjective and project-based have also served as my culminating assessments.  I have reflected on the merits of the multiple formats and have determined a list of pros and cons for each.

Subjective Assessments (Multiple Choice, Fill-in-the-Blank, Matching, etc.)

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Pros:

  • Easy to grade
  • Relatively easy to create
  • Trends in comprehension (number correct/incorrect) efficiently identified
  • Format can parallel standardized tests which allows for students to be more familiar and comfortable when assessed (ACT, SAT, state tests)

Cons:

  • Only assesses one type of learning/interpretation
  • Creating questions that truly align with objectives/standards can be difficult
  • Leaves little room for students to express themselves and their understanding
  • Little-to-no creativity or individuality allowed

Objective Assessments (Short Answer, Short Essay, Essay)

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Pros:

  • Students able to express themselves and their understanding in their own way
  • More room for individuality
  • Questions can be more easily created because they can encompass more ideas/skills

Cons:

  • Takes longer to grade
  • Some students are not strong writers
  • Addresses one learning style
  • Usually there are fewer questions (sometimes only one), therefore if it is interpreted incorrectly, students’ responses may not fully encompass their full knowledge
  • ESL/ESE students may struggle
  • Extensive rubrics required

Project-Based/Presentations

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Pros:

  • Allowance for multiple interpretations and approaches to answering the prompt
  • Creativity is encouraged
  • Application of classroom content to a real-world issue
  • Students are allowed to connect to the content in a real way
  • More learning styles are addressed
  • Collaboration is an option

Cons:

  • Requires outside of class time – teacher has little control over if it is completed
  • Developing the project requirements is more complex
  • Multiple aspects need to addressed when grading
  • Students need strong support in developing presentation skills; scaffolding required
  • Multiple days required for presentation
  • Extensive rubrics required

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no one proper way to assess students; all formats present their advantages and disadvantages.  A good teacher who wants to truly assess their students’ complete understanding and skill level will not choose just one format, but will allow for multiple assessment formats.

Interactive Student Notebooks

Happy Saturday!

It’s been awhile since I have posted, and that’s nothing new to most of the readers of this blog.  I’ve learned to stop apologizing for taking much-needed breaks.  We are all human and need self-care.  The holidays are over, life has returned to “normal” and I’m ready to return to Within the Numbered Pages.

What’s New?

  • It’s 2015 and I’m keeping up on my goals of taking care of myself, listening to my body, and being more present.  I’ve also been writing in my gratitude journal on a daily basis, which I think has motivated me to stick with my 2015 goals.  I’ve gotten past the traditional family, friends, shelter, and health topics and learned to appreciate the smaller gifts.
  • I’m staying crafty and enjoying my time in my little haven.

Craft Room

In my professional life, I have become interested in learning more about Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN) and how they can support my students and their learning.

What is an Interactive Student Notebook?

The purpose of the interactive notebook is to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. Interactive notebooks are used for class notes as well as for other activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class.  (interactive-notebooks)

Everybody is a Genius is another great resource for establishing an ISN.

What drew my attention to the ISN system were pins on my Pinterest dashboard that featured lessons or inserts that had been used in other content areas.  I know how important the role of connection to and hands-on interaction with manipulatives and content is to student learning, and what a clever, manageable method ISNs can be!

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Interactive Notebooks – English

Why use an ISN?

Interactive Student Notebooks is a research-based learning strategy that supports all student learning.  It incorporates:

  • High level of verbal communication between teacher and student, and among students
  • Integration of basic skills instruction with instruction in other subjects
  • Organization of instruction around themes
  • Use of collaborative learning groups

These strategies are impactful for all learners at all levels, including exceptional, gifted, those with IEPs, and ESOL/ESL students.

Additionally, ISN can be easily adapted to authentic assessments, which include:

  • Generally developed directly from classroom instruction, group work, and related classroom activities and provide an alternative to traditional assessments
  • Can be considered valid and reliable in that they genuinely and consistently assess a student’s classroom performance
  • Facilitate the student’s participating in the evaluation process
  • Include measurements and evaluations relevant to both the teacher and the student
  • Emphasize real-world problems, tasks, or applications that are relevant to the student and his or her community

ISN are one way to include peformance-based assessments:

  • Use meaningful, naturalistic, context-embedded tasks through hands-on collaborative activities
  • Show what students know and can do through a variety of assessment tasks
  • Support the language and cognitive needs of ELLs
  • Allow for flexibility in meeting individual needs
  • Use criterion-referenced assessment for judging student work
  • Provide feedback to students on strengths and weaknesses
  • Generate descriptive information that can guide instruction
  • Provide information for teaching and learning that results in improved student performance