Midterm is two weeks away, and I’m caught in a conundrum. My students have started to ask, “Are we having a mid-term?” Normally, I have a mid-term, for a few of my classes. But today I find myself deeply pondering this decision. Why do I give my students mid-terms?
The truth is, I don’t need to. They’ve already demonstrated their ability to meet the objectives with other assignments or projects. I honestly find, for the most part, exams aren’t conducive to demonstrating their knowledge or skills in many of the classes I teach. Instead, it shows me how well they can memorize.
But here’s the catch. Many of my students who go on to post-secondary education will need to know how to write a midterm. They will need to know how to filter through half a semester’s information and pick out the key points to memorize and argue. Furthermore, they will need to know what information is essential and what is superfluous and how to write everything within the allotted time. And sometimes they will need to know how memorize and spew back.
Some might argue this isn’t my problem. Instead, universities need to change their evaluation procedures. True. But what if they don’t by the time my students enter their classrooms?
To me, my job isn’t necessarily always about curriculum. It’s about giving my students the skills they need to be successful in their lives. And for some of them that’s learning how to write an exam.
I would love to get rid of exams, and have students solely demonstrate their knowledge through projects, portfolios and assignments. Actually, I’d love to get rid of marks period and have them explore what they love.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to give an exam yet. However, if I do, I think I’ll change the format this year to one question, in which they will have to argue the literary merit of one of the works we have studied thus far in the semester.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this one.
photo courtesty of flickr cc: Matt Beckwith