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A “Revisited” blog post indicates that I reread the original and used AI-assisted tools (e.g., Grammarly) to improve grammar and word choice.

First published on December 20, 2009.

The last final exam has been graded—the grades were submitted electronically.

Final exams began on Thursday this year, but my finals were the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Moreover, I chose to do something new within each final exam. These innovations resulted in my not having exams (newly made) ready until the day before I administered them. Such are academic opportunity costs!

This semester I introduced innovations in each of my classes, some common across each class and others unique to each course. Common to each class, I completed the formal part of instruction a week before the end of the semester. I used the remaining class time for reviewing and preparing students for the final exam.

For each class, I wrote a blog about the course and invited students to respond to the blog. My primary goal in that assignment was not to increase my blog site’s “hit rate”! Instead, I’d like to increase the likelihood that students might subsequently recognize how easy it is to comment responsibly on something “published” online. Though it is too early to say whether that goal was met, I was delighted by the thoughtful comments from my PSY101 students.

Unique to PSY101, I also asked students in my Introductory Psychology class to visit a psychology podcast site and critique for me two episodes. Since I am exploring whether (video) podcasting is something I wish to do (is Audacity the answer?), I found their feedback quite helpful. Their final exam was the easiest to produce (50 multiple choice questions covering the fundamental concepts I covered in the course and 50 points of terminology questions)—and most accessible to grade —in part because they provided compelling evidence that they knew the material. They were a fun group to teach and learn with!

Unique to PSY205, I invited the students (once they had completed their 13-page, cumulative final exam —50 multiple choice, 30 points of terminology, 20 problems requiring students to indicate what data analysis was appropriate—to accept the Robin the Christmas Newf extra credit challenge.

Though I don’t believe in giving extra credit (it undermines intrinsic motivation), I was curious about their abilities to recognize flaws in published articles (the same article I shared with my PSY303 class to critique for their final) and poorly designed surveys (the same survey administered to a sample of Carroll employees last week to assess the quality of the workplace). Though only one student (almost) identified the published data analysis error–and none recognized that the survey response scales had categories that were not mutually exclusive (and hence potentially invalidate most statistical break-downs), I was pleased that several students rose to the challenge. And more importantly to me, several students from this class have a mastery of which data analysis to use. But will they have that same degree of mastery the next time I see them—or will they be singing this swan song again?

Unique to PSY303, I gave students in my Experimental Social Psychology course two published journal articles in advance. I also gave them a sense of the kinds of questions I would be asking them about the “Scrooge Effect” and God is Watching You” articles. I elected to assess students this way (rather than over course content—e.g., names, terminology, theories, concepts) since a primary emphasis of this course involved thoughtfully reading and critiquing published research through weekly student presentations and discussions. I was most impressed by the thoughtful, reflective, insightful responses of almost every student—though none noticed the data analysis flaw.

Why bother giving final exams? Aren’t the 3 to 5 regular exams I give throughout the semester enough? It would be much easier for me to provide all multiple-choice questions that students respond to on a computer-readable form. However, choosing the easy route would eliminate my opportunity to assess and teach during the final examination period.

How odd it is that course evaluations occur before final exams are given. Wouldn’t a fairer assessment of a course (and of the instructor) require that students have taken and received feedback from their final examinations?  How frustrating it is not to be able to go over the final with my students and get from them suggestions for improvement in a timely fashion.

Maybe finals should be the last week of class, and feedback should be during finals week. Alternatively, a component of course evaluations should be a reflective writing piece on the first day of classes.  Maybe the first day of classes should be an exam covering the course prerequisites!

Too much grading makes me think like this and hallucinate about Sugar Plums.


Happy Holidays from Curious David!