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.

Reflective Teaching Challenge Day Twenty-Four:

DAY TWENTY FOUR

Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

Mobile Learning:Using portable computing devices (such as iPads, laptops, tablet PCs, PDAs, and smart phones) with wireless networks enables mobility and mobile learning, allowing teaching and learning to extend to spaces beyond the traditional classroom. Within the classroom, mobile learning gives instructors and learners increased flexibility and new opportunities for interaction. (via EDUCAUSE.edu)

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Why?  One word: flexibility.  Second word: accessibility

photoI have been absent from updating my Project Nerdfighter GeniusHour website, and after having an emotional self-analysis the past few days, dealing with the guilt of not doing enough for my students because of stress from outside-of-the-classroom factors, I am finally able to resurface and put my energies in the right realm.  I try to instill a philosophy of Acknowledge, Accept, and Adjust.  It’s time to be the model that Emerson encourages all educators to be for their students (I’m not really that smart; I’ve just been reading and preparing for my AP Lang class).  NOW!  This is not an introspective blog; it’s all about

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This past week, my students were able to have a their Genius Hour workday in the Media Center.  Because of retesting students, administering the PSAT, and other logistical issues, we have not been able to access computers for the past two weeks.  I have been encouraging my students to complete their weekly blog entries at home or on their WordPress mobile apps.  Thankfully the WordPress app is very user-friendly and this last of Media Center time has not hurt them.  I prefer to “be in the moment” with my students so that I can support them, refocus them when they lose their way, and to become inspired myself.

Observations:

  • Having students complete blog entries on WordPress has been wonderful.  First, requiring all students to use one platform that I am familiar with is a blessing and a choice that I am continually grateful for.  Also, it is a way for me to safely observe the students.  I’m over their shoulder, but they are very independent through this process.
  • Feedly has been an invaluable tool.  If you are going to require blog entries from your students, for whatever project, I highly recommend finding an RSS Reader program or website.  I use Feedly because it’s user-friendly and free.  It updates me when students post a new blog, saving me time from running around the internet.
  • Most students are getting it.  I am having two of my three English III classes participate in this activity, which is about 40 students.  I would conservatively estimate that 2/3 of the class is on board, choosing projects that are important to them, and appreciate the time provided to them.  I would say that of those 25 students who are engaged, at least 10 are VERY enthusiastic about the project and are embodying the vision that I had for it.
  • So what about that 1/3 who is out of the Nerdfighter Genius Hour loop?  Some are absent a lot and haven’t been able to fully understand what it is that we’re doing.  I am working to help them see this as more than ” a research project.”  I have three distinct students who are just being that student who enjoy being a spectacle and who enjoy creating chaos.  What do I do about them?  I refocus them as much as possible, and when the behavior gets out of control, the school’s discipline system is applied and I have had to ask them to leave the Media Center.  It’s sad that they view school and opportunities in this way, but it is what it is.  I choose to focus on the other 37 students and their projects instead.

Going Forward:

  1. I have successfully booked the Media Center for each Friday in November that we are in school.
  2. I am requiring students to have a Final Product Proposal due before we leave for the Winter/Christmas break.  It needs to outline what their final presentation project is going to look like, format, resources needed, steps required to complete, and what do they need from me?
  3. Final presentations will the last week of the 1st semester- ish.  I am waiting to hear the schedule for final exams from my administration before making the final due date.
  4. I am inspired.  My students are awesome.  They are Geniuses.