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
International

South Korea ferry disaster: captain's actions 'tantamount to…

The captain and some crew members of the sunken South Korean passenger ferry Sewol have been accused of 'murderous acts' by their own president, after…

News

Easter Egg hunt horror as skydiver plummets to…

A FAMILY Easter egg hunt ended in horror when a skydiver plummeted to his death in a New York garden after his parachute failed to…

News

Boston Marathon 2014 on high alert, Red Sox…

One year on from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings a ring of steel has been thrown around today's race, and a city stands defiant against…

News

Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.