Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Dreaded Final, part 1

The issues regarding comprehensive final exams are many.  Just a few to start:
  • They scare kids/kids hate them
  • If the time limit's relatively short (90 minutes for our term 2 exams), you can have trouble adequately assessing 7 months of content; the necessary "cherry picking" of material means that you might hit the holes in a kid's understanding, getting a skewed picture of what they know
  • How do we fit the final in with the standards-based grading from the term?  A bad day could crush a term worth of hard work, especially in a last-score-sticks model of SBG
So... I tried to address some of these this year.  The honors physics exam from term 2 starts with a tally sheet.  The premise is that I supply a set of goalless problems - setups with no questions - and they show me what they know

Here's what I hope and plan for:
  • Kids won't worry about what I'm going to pick.  There's a freedom in knowing that you need to know everything, and that you'll get credit for everything that you know
  • By being upfront on the tally sheet with the big content areas, their weights, and listing the specific areas covered, the kids don't really have a chance to forget to demonstrate something, and they can pick where they'd like to show off what skills
  • The final will count as 20% of the term grade, and the standards scores will count as 80%.  A bad day can't wipe out that hard work of the term - the 80% "sticks" and is immutable.
 What'll happen?  I'll know in a couple of days!


  1. Neat! This sounds somewhat similar to what I tried this year (I wrote about it here: in my physics classes at St. Andrew's. It was/is so tough trying to fit a 100 point scale onto the measurements that I took with standards-based grading. Good luck with your exams!

  2. Cool post - I like the "core skills" idea. I'm still navigating my first year of SBG, and I tried to make it as easy as possible for the students/parents to understand. This is an interesting tweak to think about for next year, though!

  3. Thanks. My first year with SBG, too. A lot of thinking to do this summer on how to make it even better. The kids seem to love it, and I think they are learning more. They are definitely happier and calmer. One of my honors kids remarked the other day, "the stress level in this class is so low." That's AMAZING in honors physics, right?

  4. The results are in!