Thursday, April 27, 2006

Final Exams

The end of April is, traditionally, a period when college instructors prepare final exams for their students. In my survey course, the final exam is much easier than the mid-term, partly because I consider the material in the first half of the course more important, and partly because students are so put upon at the end of the semester that asking them to perform feats of anything other than time management doesn't seem productive. In format, however, I follow the same general pattern as Tim Burke, a combination of ID's and essays, with a special primary source section on the midterm.

Also like Tim, I hand out a list of ID's ahead of time to my students. Otherwise I just feel like there are far too many names, places, ad foreign religious, social, and political terms to study constructively, and I'd rather have my students learn the big ideas well than spread themselves too thin trying to cover every possible ID from over 100 pages of reading a week and what we do in class. While I understand the point that knowing what is important represents a key skill, I prefer to deal with that in writing assignments and discussion of the reading, and pitch my ID section differently. This isn't to say I don't still look for some skill - I use something my professors at Quincy University used called the "ID triad," meaning that a complete ID answer will include the definition, context, and significance of the term in question. In some ways, this makes the exam a teaching tool as much as an evaluation one, for this forces students to process the material again on a higher cognitive level than they might have when it was initially presented and they were just trying to "get it all down" or make it to the end of a reading.


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