More Pondering On Midterm and Final Exams…

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Last week’s initial post on the value of traditional midterm and final exams drew quite a bit of interest. Due to the great discussions that I had with people in the comment section of the original post, on Twitter, and face-to-face, I was made aware of a few posts and articles that also touched upon this topic. You can check them out below:

Are Midterms Really Necessary In A Climate Of Assessment? – By Dawn Casey-Rowe on Teach Thought

In this post, Casey-Rowe describes is clear about her disdain for mid-term exams and also the fact that we have much better options to monitor the progress of our students in this day and age.

“It’s time for midterms. I hate midterms. They take up so much time–several days of review, a week of administering, and then all the correcting. To top it off, they place students in a high-anxiety environment. I feel like I’m hazing them rather than teaching…And all of this is unnecessary. I can tell if a student understands without a week of exams. We have the technology and the pedagogy to microassess students.”

The Procedure’ and how it is harming education – via Marion Brady in The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet

In this article Brady discusses the “The Procedure” which has come to play such an integral role in our nation’s schools. 

“The Procedure: 1. Take notes during lectures, and hi-lite key sentences in the textbook. 2. Before a big test, load the notes and hi-lited passages into short-term memory. 3. Take the test. 4. Flush short-term memory and prepare for its re-use. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that just about everybody in the country thinks The Procedure isn’t just acceptable but essential. It’s so broadly used, so familiar, so taken-for-granted, that many schools and universities go to great pains to accommodate it. Some even have rituals to enhance it. 

 The Procedure, of course, is called “cramming.” Do it well and it leads steadily up the academic ladder.

But here’s a question: Does The Procedure have anything do with educating?”

Bye-bye, Blue Books? – Harvard Magazine

This article from Harvard Magazine actually ran back in the summer of 2010 regarding a change to the faculty members’ handbook which took away the mandate of a three-hour exam at the end of each course. 

“The administrative logic aside, reversing the default procedure for scheduling examinations reflects a pedagogical reality. It appears that finals are going the way of the dodo.”

American Schools Need More Testing Not Less – by Ezekiel J. Emanual in New Republic

My short summation of this article is that it is a call for more formative assessments in an era where high-stakes standardized testing is taking to much of our focus.

“In the modern era, when information can be more easily—and accurately—Googled than mentally recalled, old-fashioned testing strikes its critics as obsolete…
But it turns out that the right kinds of assessments—frequent, short tests—can actually yield big educational benefits. It’s called the “testing effect…”

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