The case for killing college finals

To the delight of students, some professors are looking to do away with final exams in colleges.
To the delight of students, some professors are looking to do away with final exams in colleges.

The pressure caused by and the cramming required for final exams have long taken the blame for a slew of college-campus woes, including cheating scandals and Adderall abuse. Now some schools and professors are also questioning the efficacy of finals on a fundamental level, deeming them — at best — insufficient assessments of knowledge and — at worst — impediments to learning.

Even Harvard, rather famously, began phasing out the dreaded end-term tests after a curriculum change in 2009. Other teachers and campuses are following suit. One such educator at the forefront of the movement, William E. Engel, Ph.D., professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South, shares his classroom endgame, and four better ways to achieve it

Focus on smaller, cumulative projects: “Learning should be cumulative, rather than coming in little bits and pieces that aren’t put together until the end. My students do exercises that they keep applying, transforming, reapplying and literally reconstructing throughout the semester. Exercises are a means to an end, not the end itself. ”

Remove the pressure: “When they’re cramming, they may get surface details down — but they won’t be able to offer the nuances of a well-constructed and interesting argument. Sometimes I give writing exercises during class, introduced as ‘just an assignment for class time today.’ This environment helps them to be able to grasp greater depths of concepts.”

Introduce a different pressure: “I have them work individually and then come to class and do it in a group. Each is asked to speak about something unique they discovered. When they know their peers will look at the individual work they did, it will be more polished. Working in peer groups ensures they’ve tested their ideas.”

The endgame: Ultimately, Engel hopes to teach his students analytical ways to approach texts that they can then incorporate into other areas of learning and expertise. “My larger goal is to prepare them for lifelong learning,” he explains. “I’m trying to develop the spirit of my student, more than a mastery of the material. If we’re teaching to an exam, that changes how we teach.”

It’s all about the shapes

Engel is fond of mind maps. For example, when teaching Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” he gives the students a 24-sided figure, a side for each tale: “I have them draw lines and squiggles in colorful pens to make connections between and among the tales,” he says.

— To learn more about his pedagogy and exercises, visit www.engelwood.com.

 

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…