Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Open Book v. Closed Book

When I first started teaching two years ago, I was a big fan of open book exams -- real life is open book, so why shouldn't exams be open book?  This year, I tried something different in my Property I class.  I made the exam closed book, and I gave four graded quizzes throughout the semester.  All of the quizzes were closed book; some were multiple choice and some were short-answer.  The result was a dramatic improvement in the overall performance (measured by quality of answer) on my final.  I'm not sure how much of the improvement to attribute to the quizzes and how much to the closed-book nature of the exam.  I suspect that both played a part.  Interestingly enough, the student feedback on the quizzes was very positive -- my students appreciated the early feedback, and the preparation for the quizzes put them in good shape to prepare for the final.  From now on, I'm going to use the same format -- graded quizzes, closed-book exam -- for all of my large classes, including Business Organizations.  The quizzes, of course, were some extra work, but the results were worth it.

Ben Barros

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When I teach a two semester course in either property or torts, I do something similar: have one semester's exam (usually the first) be closed-book, then the second semester's be open. That way, students are tested for both "closed-book" skills of memorization and "open-book" skills of reading cases carefully.

Posted by: Mike Lewyn | Jan 16, 2007 4:38:23 PM

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