Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Final Exams – I’m Working Harder Than Them … Again

Posted on: June 8, 2011

As I sit here grading my final exams, I realize I am putting in way more effort than my students.  I am making a promise to myself and I intend to keep it.

My final exam next year will…

  • begin with a multiple choice section on basic concepts & terminology
  • have lots of basic problems with multiple choice answers
  • have a very small written portion – I’m keeping the Road Runner cartoon, it’s my favorite part
  • be graded in under two hours

One of the questions this year asked the students to discuss three principles used in their Rube Goldberg project and explain the application of the principle.  I was looking for concepts like inertia, momentum, kinetic energy, and force.  I just graded a paper where the principles listed were ball, dog, and ball.

If it’s multiple choice, I won’t have to learn that after a full year of physics, one of my students thinks “dog” is a physics concept.  I just wish it was a joke and not the truth.


2 Responses to "Final Exams – I’m Working Harder Than Them … Again"

I feel for you! While I *know* it isn’t genuine assessment, I always do full-on multiple choice scan-tron on the final. We have 24 hours to submit final exam grades, so it’s really the only reliable way to get it done in time AND be able to check out on-time – which is in the same time-frame. You know, I don’t dislike it one bit, either.

Anyone who comes upon this blog and this entry, I would like to take a moment and point out a couple of things:

Scott says that he is working harder than his students. Something we all have to stop doing. About halfway through the year, my students acknowledged to me how weak their Chemistry was as we began Thermodynamics. So, I came upon some modules for them to work themselves and build up their knowledge of heat in preparation. Well, originally they were quite resistant and even complained to Guidance. At that point, I gave them an earful and told them how disappointed I was that they weren’t willing to put in the work required to understand the science and work with me. I told them that I didn’t care who they complained to, or what they tried, the simple fact of the matter is that they needed to learn the material and the fact that they were attempting to fight against such learning disappointed me more than anything. I didn’t used the word “angry.” I didn’t scream. I simply talked about my profound disappointment in them.

From that point on, the students turned on the afterburners and I didn’t have a single student get less than a 75 on any test or quiz. In fact, one of them got a 100 on the Final, which was cumulative.

My point is this: When we find that we are working harder than our students, we have to be willing to stand up in front of them and say so. We also have to point out that we aren’t going to lower our standards because they don’t want to work so hard and we need to be willing to stand up to any resistance. Scott also points out a problem with “projects:” Are the students actually learning as they do the project, or just having fun at something new and missing the concepts. Scott, please keep up your level of rigor, and make your students aware that they have to come up to you level, not that you are going down to theirs. We owe it to the future to be expecting the best from our students.

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