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Jul 27

From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Finals or Grand Finale?

Wait! It’s the beginning of a new academic year, why are we talking about final examination time? If you are familiar with McTighe and Wggins Understanding by Design Framework (see our lending library for resources) you will remember that before you begin to design, develop or teach a course you identify “What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is the ultimate transfer we seeks as a result of this unit?” But is the typical final examination a foregone conclusion? Could there be better ways to have students exit your course?

Anthony Crider thinks so. In Final Exams or Epic Finales he suggests that finales are “handcrafted.” Click the image below for an interesting read.

FinalsPerhaps a little less radical, Ball State University shares some tips about ending a course from their Office of Educational Excellence. Teaching Tip: Ending a Course. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Ask students to reflect, individually or in groups, on the insights they gained over the course of the semester
  • Share what knowledge you the instructor gained during the semester
  • Connect the learning with future applications

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University also provides resources for faculty creating assignments, exams, and finals. They claim that there are advantages in pacing work throughout the semester rather than a high stakes final examination at the end. For one, students are more likely to work, read and engage throughout the semester rather than doing the work in a mad, end of the semester study binge. You can read more at their Center for Teaching and Learning.

Finally, in Crider’s Final Exams or Epic Finales (image above), he mentioned something that resonated with me. He talks about making his course “epic.” Having students really remember his course long after the course is done. He wants his students to think about his course and talk about it for months and years. Don’t we all want this? He feels that a creative ending will help. Thank you Professor Crider for giving us something at the start of the semester to consider and possibly set our sights a little higher than the typical marathon multiple choice final exam or essay, as we deliver our content.

Do you agree? We’d love to hear if you try something new and epic!