Thursday, April 28, 2011

Five Quizzes Instead of a Final Exam

I am just finishing grading the last  set of quizzes for students in my Land Use course. Years ago, Ron Agulnick, my co-teacher and a practicing lawyer, decided that giving a final exam at the end of the course was not pedagogically sound. Students would cram  at the end of the semester,  get  no substantive feedback on their answers, and, right after the exam, promptly forget most of what they had quickly learned. 

Instead, we give our students a series of five in-class quizzes, each on a discrete piece of the course—the contents of the quizzes do not overlap. Immediately after the students take a quiz, we give them our answers. Each quiz counts for 20 points.

 Students thus study a handful of classes very intensely for each quiz. They tell us that, as a result, they remember more of the material, long term. Students also get instant feedback, a pedagogically valuable benefit. 

Most quizzes consist of ten questions, each worth two points. Some require paragraph answers; most are multiple guess. The questions are thus quite straightforward. I have never believed that the exam setting is the place to evaluate a student’s analytical abilities. Instead, we hold exit interviews in which we encourage  small groups of students to discuss  the bigger issues with us. I will write about those another time. I should note that I use a different grading system in each  course that I teach.


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