open book finals

Kathleen Archer Kathleen.Archer at MAIL.CC.TRINCOLL.EDU
Tue May 5 07:48:35 EST 1998

Dear Folks,
I've used a variation on the open book final that I like a lot. My goals
were to 1)have the students thoroughly review all they had learned over the
semester,  2) integrate what they had learned at different times during the
semester, and 3) synthesize their knowledge and apply it to new situations.
 To be able to do this in depth, I felt the students needed access to their
notes and text, and to get them to really think, I wanted to remove the
stress of time pressure.  

A week or so before the final, I give students a list of 10 - 12 questions.
 The students can use any source they want in addition to their book and
notes to develop answers.  I encourage them to write out their ideas in
advance of the final itself.  On the day of the final, I select 5-6
questions from the list, and the students answer them in class without
using their notes or other materials.  By not letting them use their
materials during the final itself, I insure that students will work with
the questions ahead of time, and not spend the entire time period of the
final frantically flipping through their book trying to find an answer.

I have used this in my plant physiology class and my plant diversity class.
 At first, I told students they must work alone during their preparation
time, but discovered that was nearly impossible to enforce.  I decided that
if students sat around and discussed the material with each other, that was
a positive thing.  In the end, each student has to articulate her own
answer in class anyway.  I also observed that, in general, students which
tended to leech off of others did not do all that much better on this test.

An additional selfish benefit is that I can have the students work through
a great deal of material, but by selecting only a portion of the questions
to pose during the final itself, I reduce the amount of grading I have to

Kathleen Archer

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