Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exams as educational tools

While researching something unrelated, I stumbled across an article by Howard E. Aldrich entitled, "How to Hand Exams Back to Your Class" (College Teaching 49 [2001]: 82). Aldrich's method has several parts:

  1. An answer key with "best answers" given to the students
  2. Students meet in preassigned groups to compare their answers. Those with correct answers take on a teaching role, explaining why theirs is a better response. 
  3. At the start of the next class, Aldrich administers a 5-question multiple-choice quiz covering the questions most frequently missed. 
  4. A cumulative final exam.

Instead of glancing at the grade and stuffing the test into their folders, Aldrich's students use the test as a learning tool. It becomes necessary to review one's progress in order to improve at the next stage.

My literature courses aren't heavily test-based. I give 2 or 3 exams, including the final. What are your thoughts on cumulative finals in literature courses?  Would they encourage students to build on their previous progress? Or would they overwhelm them?
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