All questions are easy…

As we approach the halfway point of the school year, and the end of the first semester, I am watching my teenage daughters prepare for final exams. I read the blog post Finals Fever and agree with the statement that there needs to be “a better way to end a semester” than with final exams. There is likely very little movement in grades on a final exam. An “A” student will very likely get a good grade on a final while a student who is struggling to pass the class is likely to get a mark that will either achieve a pass or a fail, but not by much either way.

I personally went to a high school that did not have final exams. When I got to University, I had zero experience with finals. Everyone said I was at a great disadvantage because I didn’t have any test taking experience. Well guess what? It didn’t matter. All test questions are easy if you know the answer, or know how to find the answer. So if I LEARNED something during the semester, I did well enough on the finals.

I think that is why teachers come up with “trick” questions, because they know they have to make something “hard” for the students who learned during the semester.  There is a notion that “hard” equals “good”.

Mr. Moses recently responded to another teachers blog with the following advice I think we should all be going by.

  1. You will not use the grade book as a weapon against your students. In fact you may want to commit to not using your grade book at all. You may need to keep one to fool the administration, but under no circumstances should it reflect what you report to the office at the end of a grading period.
  2. Commit, right now, to not failing a single student. No matter what. If you do this it will completely change how you work with young people.
  3. Never forget that you are there to help kids. Nothing else matters. Not even a little.

We are not here to “trick” kids, or make things “hard”. We are here to help kids be successful. If a teacher can make these commitments, and spend time teaching and assessing students all year long, the final exam  questions should all be “easy”.

8 thoughts on “All questions are easy…

  1. I completely agree re: finals and midterms. We have recommends at our school and really, it just rewards good test writers and puts the other kids down further. I’m glad I teach French because I rarely have exams, instead end of unit projects where they are required to use all their knowledge and not regurgitate. I get to guide them through the process and help make them better each time. I make finals and mid-terms worth very little since it is required they write a test. I hate it though because it is so different from what we do in class. I find I definitely teach to the test because it isn’t fair writing this huge test when they don’t write one all year otherwise.

  2. Angus,

    I still think that while final exams have their place and can measure learning, the biggest issue I see is we haven’t figured out how design assessments that are more reflective of their learning. I’m guessing 90% of these finals are pencil paper tests. I think we have to do better.

    As an aside and probably unrelated to this post, I love this quote:
    “Teach me a unit, I’ll make an ‘A’ for a day. Teach me a PLN, I’ll learn for a lifetime.”
    PLN=Personal Learning Network

  3. I agree that we should never use the gradebook as a weapon. Some students just don’t “get it” the same way others do. Some are great at one subject and horrible at another. I wish we didn’t have to even give grades sometimes. What do they really tell us? Is it that Johnny doesn’t know it, or didn’t care enough to answer correctly? I have a very smart student right now who has checked out of school mentally. He knows a lot about computers and programming, but refuses to put that knowledge to work for “good.” Rather than threatening him with failing grades, I am trying to find something of interest for him even if it isn’t what everyone else is learning.

  4. Tim,

    I agree with you. Your student who has “checked out mentally” isn’t going to check back in because of a threat of low grades. The grades are obviously meaningless to SOME students, no matter what their learning potential is!


  5. i personally dislike being judged. as a student i see when the teachers look and wonder if im paying attention or not, when i dont finish an asignment because i just dont have the time at home to do it. but what i hate even more is when a teacher assumes i cheated when i pass a test without any problems before students that do have the time to finish assignments.

  6. I have been visiting various blogs for my term paper research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information… Regards

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