Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Final Exam

Every semester I seem to surprise my students by giving a final exam. Now, this should come as no surprise, but many feel since it is a public speaking class, the speeches should serve as the grade and there should not be any exams.

I actually understand this thinking but the course catalog tells me I am supposed to give them an exam, so I play by the rules. I put it in my syllabus. On the first day of class, when I go over the syllabus, I include a PowerPoint presentation that shows the breakdown of all the assignments, including the final exam. I even put in the PowerPoint presentation, next to the line that shows the weight of the exam, “Yes, there is a final exam in public speaking”. Still, it seems to surprise the students and catch them off guard.

I also tell my students that anything covered in class in fair game for the exam and anything in the textbook, regardless of whether or not we cover it in class is fair game for the exam. From previous semesters, I know some of them brag about the fact that they never opened the book and can sell it back at full price because it is still shrink wrapped. So, here is the dilemma I pose to them.

I review for the exam and tell them what they should know. A lot of it comes from the textbook. I usually include a question that says “According to your textbook …”, and I tell them about this question in advance, so in order to get it right, all they have to do is open the book and look up the answer.

As I did that this semester, I had students complain once again. One even told me she had already sold the book back to the book store. I simply state, “I told you on the first day of class, anything in the book is fair game for the exam. I even told you that some of you are not going to open the book until you start studying for the exam and others of you may not even open the book then. Some of you will be able to pull it off, but know, if it is in the textbook, even if I don’t cover it, it is legitimate for me to put on the test.”

The students moan and groan, but usually admit that they do recall me saying this. This time, as I reminded them of this, one of the students looked at me and he said, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you”.

I guess I was. I understand that my class is not the only one the students are taking and that they do have lives outside of the classroom. Still, I am willing to work with them if they are willing to work with me and they do need to keep up with the reading and know what is going on.

One of my other favorite questions to include on the exam is to say, “Which of the following was not a topic used for a speech by a student in this class?” I then list three topics that were given and a fourth one from a class the previous semester that was not used in the current semester. This way, students who are not there for speeches, or who feel they only need to be there on the day they are speaking, are being slightly penalized.

Perhaps I am a little mean, as I enjoy marking this question wrong on the exams of the students who missed a lot of classes. On the other hand, I enjoy marking it right on the exams of the students who had good attendance.