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Designing Final Exams

Teachers should design finals to be culminating learning experiences. In an important book (Assessing Student Performance: Exploring the Purpose and Limits of Testing, Jossey-Bass, 1999.) on student assessment (and academic ethics), Grant Wiggins claims that many of the reasons students focus on grades (and get involved in cheating) is because assessments depend on secrecy more than successful mastery. Here are some immediate steps you can take to help your students complete their final examinations successfully.

Testing

The most common problem with composing final examinations, as well as other kinds of tests, is that they can be easy to write and score, but hard to write well and limited in what they measure.

Checking Goals.

Good exams keep learning goals in the forefront. Instead of listing test items, review the skills you set as goals. Choose the type of test format that elicits this kind of performance. Multiple formats on the same exam allow you to target various skills.

Student Questions.

To help build up a bank of good questions, ask students to submit questions (and answers) that you can use on the final. You learn what they think is important and they start thinking about the material beforehand.

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