Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Want to Know What's a Dumb Idea?

Giving 150 midterms, that's what.  I apologize for my lack of participation as of late, but merciful light is at the end of the grading tunnel.

I like to take some of the pressure off the final and give the students some feedback, but I now think the cost in workload outweighs the benefit.  Of course, I thought that last year, too, and still gave midterms this year.

Could someone please copy this post and send it to me in October of next year?

Do you give midterms, and why or why not?

Mark A. Edwards


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I gave a graded midterm once, and ran into the same problem you did. The grading and exam conferences killed the entire semester. I transitioned to giving graded multiple choice quizzes throughout the semester. The students really like them, and the quizzes give good feedback throughout the semester. Since I started doing the quizzes, I've noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the answers on the finals. I also do sample essay questions at several points throughout the semester, but don't grade them. Once or twice I have had a graded short answer question on a quiz.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Nov 11, 2010 6:22:43 AM

I haven't given graded midterms for a few reasons. One concern expressed by other faculty here is that unless all the other profs teaching the same students are also doing so, my students wouldn't do their work in their other classes for a few days before my midterm. Instead, I post lots of extended hypos and problem sets on TWEN and then separately post answers to them. I urge the students to try the hypos without looking at the answers and to not short-circuit their learning. I then offer to discuss any questions a student might have after they've been through that exercise. This approach puts the ball in the students' court to take responsibility for their own learning. And, after the upfront investment of time and energy, it's not very time-consuming for me.

Posted by: Tim Iglesias | Nov 12, 2010 4:28:46 PM

Mark, I gave a take-home midterm in Real Estate Transactions this semester. I had 25 students and limited each of them to 8 pages. I feel your pain -- it wasn't the best idea I've ever had.

Posted by: Tanya Marsh | Nov 15, 2010 2:46:02 PM

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