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Last Day of Class: Final "Exam"!

I don't usually give my students a final.

Tests and exams and quizzes do not really fit my stance as a teacher.

That is not to say I do not give final assessments to my classes.

Projects are more my style. Some of these are academic papers, but most are multimodal in nature and are videos, a series of posters, a TED Talk-type of presentation, or any number of other forms... I let my students decide. I try to be an hands-off and open-ended as possible when describing what their assessment is, which usually frustrates them! They want to know exactly what I'm looking for. They want to know what to produce. They want to know what I want. And I tell them: I want you to produce a thing that adequately shows what you've learned this semester. I want you to be creative. I want you to think outside the box. And this drives them up a wall!

Most are not very used to being assigned these kinds of projects. But I want them to use their strengths when they create their final assessment, so that's why I'm not very explicit with the directions.

Typically I never hold class during Finals Week so that my students have extra time to work on their projects, but this year I ran into a slight snag. One of the schools at which I'm teaching asks, no-- insists that all classes meet during Finals Week. Professors are not allowed to give their classes their final assessment before Finals Week and class must be held on the assigned Final Exam date and time. So I needed to figure out a way to assess my students while still holding to my No Finals stance.

I could have had all of my students present their final project, but with over 20 students in my class, that would take much longer than the two hour exam schedule would allow.

I wanted it to be connected to the class and connected to their final project in some way, but I also wanted it to be something new and something that was interesting and fun. Since we were scheduled to meet at seven-thirty in the morning (two hours earlier than we usually meet!), I wanted it to be something that did not put them (back) to sleep.

So this is what I asked them to do: Come to the exam prepared with one word that you believe describes your experience with this course. This word can be on an index card or it can be on poster board. You will not be graded on creativity, but you will be graded on how you describe your word.

This is Ethnic American Literature, so I was excited to see what they all came up with!

I even came up with a few of my own words:

  • Justice

  • Fragile

  • Jambalaya (not a Melting Pot!)

I showed up to class with doughnuts in hand (because snacks!) not really knowing what to expect. But my students really showed up to this exam, if you know what I mean!

At first look, it may look like a few of my students didn't put much effort into presenting their one word. Is that a napkin one of the words is written on? But as I mentioned, they were not graded on creativity or how it was presented, their assessment was judged by how they talked about their word. Maybe it was the doughnuts or maybe it was that my students are just that awesome, but the discussion about these words was so deep and meaningful and it was hard to get them to stop!

I was so happy and proud and inspired by my students.

What are some other ways you have assessed your students? Comment below!

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