Final exam

by Michael Bérubé on December 17, 2011

I stopped giving in-class final exams a few years ago.  It was a light-bulb moment, brought on by a student who needed a disability accommodation — in that case, someone with mild cerebral palsy.  I immediately recalled being asked for an accommodation a few years earlier, by a student who said not “I have arthritis” but rather “I need some extra time because of the arthritis that is in my hands,” which seemed a poignant way for a 20-year-old to speak of the strangeness of having arthritis at 20.  But this time, rather than simply offering an accommodation to one student (and it was <i>reasonable</i> accommodation, thus required by the Americans with Disabilities Act — just a note to all you professors out there who think that Federal law stops at your classroom door), I asked myself why I was offering in-class final exams in the first place.

Every semester for 15 years, I had been asking students to identify and/or comment on passages from our readings, and then to write a couple of longer essays on various aspects of those readings, and for some reason the essays were (with notably rare exceptions) pretty bad.  Why was that?  Perhaps, I thought, asking sleep-deprived students to scribble madly in bluebooks for two or three hours wasn’t a good way to get them to say something interesting and coherent about literature.

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Even Though Hating Mother Teresa Was Great

by Belle Waring on December 17, 2011

Noted without comment.