Thursday, August 11, 2005

musings during the final part 1

My students are taking their final exam right now. It’s a two hour final that started at 9:00 am. It’s 5/8ths of the way through the period and it looks like most of them have finished the multiple choice section and moved onto the short answer/math/practical portion of the exam. It’s only fair that it take them the full 2 hour slot to complete the final, after all it took me 7 hours to write it. The exam is 75% multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true-false. Multiple choice questions are really slow to write and as the clock pushed toward midnight last night, I gave up trying to come up with 4-5 choices and just wrote fill in the blank questions. The tradeoff I guess is that multiple choice questions are totally easy and unambiguous to grade whereas fill in the blank leave room for a little more interpretation, slowing down the grading process. For example, on one question I am looking for “ultimate base level”, but I know that many students will say “base level” and some will probably just say “base.” Since I’ve had to make each question worth 3 points, I’ll probably give them one point for each word they include on that one, but the devil’s advocate in me says, “You gave them the same question word-for-word on a quiz and you told them what the right answer was afterward. If they don’t have it completely right, don’t give them anything.” My short answer/practical questions were easy and fun to write. That’s the way I’d prefer to give exams really, if student preference and my time constraints were not a consideration. I think they are a much better probe of students’ knowledge. But as I discovered in my last quiz, they are a pain in the ass to grade, because each student does something wrong, and each one of their wrong answers is wrong for a different reason. (10:22: first student turns in their exam, I’m a bit surprised by who it is) And since short answer questions are invariably worth more than one point, you end up in this tricky situation of giving partial credit and trying to figure out how many points to take off for something that you never imagined someone would come up with. My favorite situation so far was the student who wrote in a paper that we could make apparel out of the polar bears that live in Antarctica. That’s just wrong on so many levels!!!!

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