Assigning assessments earlier creates space for feedback, prevents piles of assignments during finals
When people think of assessments in college, they often think of finals week — a week full of stressed-out college students frantically cramming for exams. Yet finals week is not only stressful due to end-of-semester tests but because everything seems to be due at the end of the term.
In my college experience, much of my final grade is not composed of the final exam but rather large projects professors assign to have a more complete picture of what a student has learned throughout the class.
Projects are a very good way for professors to assess how students are truly doing in their classes. But, with most classes being centered around a project that is due at the end of the term, that means that students can have upwards of four or five projects all due at the same time. And this piling is too much. We need a better system, especially as finals week comes directly after the end of classes.
Finals week at LC definitely needs improvement and that is because of this “piling on” of assessments.
Though I enjoy projects in classes instead of huge final exams worth the majority of my grade, I think that the scheduling needs to be reconsidered. With these projects being semester-long, they are often due on the last day of classes, which makes for a hectic end-of-semester with deadlines and finals so close together.
My main suggestion for improvement: having a full “dead week.” We do not have the traditional full week, we have reading days: two measly days on Thursday and Friday to study, as well as the weekend. Last semester, some finals were held on Saturday, so some poor students only had those two days. That is simply not enough time. Most college students tend to procrastinate, so having projects and papers due at the end of classes leave students rushing to finish projects by Wednesday and then rushing to study before Monday.
Granted, it is not the duty of professors to account for students being procrastinators. At the end of the day, that is on the student, but it would be nice of professors to take their students’ schedules into account, especially as students have multiple classes. Having a gap between final projects and final exams gives them more time to grade and less on the professor’s plate when it comes time to submit final grades.
It seems like it could be a win-win for everybody if professors move up a project to the middle of the semester or, at the very least, two or three weeks before finals. That way, students could see their project grades before finals come up.
One of my favorite ways of having projects for classes is having them be in multi-stages. This is something that Robert Kugler, professor of classics and religious studies, does for his research papers. They are typically split into four parts: a prospectus, annotated bibliography, a first draft and a final draft, with each section worth a fraction of the final grade.
The advantage is that I get feedback from each stage of the paper so I can assess what areas need improvement and that the work is split up so that overall it feels like less. Above all, it ensures that I am not completely procrastinating on a very big paper.
It is a wonderful idea for students to have class projects, especially because students get more out of those than long, copious, timed tests. However, these alternative assessments of student learning should not overlap with finals. Having assignments spaced nicely throughout the semester would be a huge relief for students and professors.