Exams have been central to higher education for as long as there has been higher education. We often take them as a given in our course planning and structure the end of the semester around a comprehensive final. Take a moment to ask yourself why you give exams.
Got an answer?
It may be a very good answer. Sometimes accrediting bodies demand specific objectives be met through exams or the exams may prepare students for a particular goal. However, for many of us, we do not have a good answer or we may give exams assuming they assure students learn concepts. A growing community is questioning the relationship between exams and learning (Jaffee, 2012; Struyven, Dochy, & Janssens, 2005) while proposing alternatives like low-stakes assignments and clicker quizzes (Dobson, 2008; Leeming, 2002; Weimer, 2011). These are not great fits for all classrooms, but we should take a minute and ask ourselves: Why do I keep doing that?
A more creative take on a similar topic appeared recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Follow the link if you want to make a choice: Final Exams or Epic Finales