Out with the tests, in with the projects

December 6, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Are traditional question-and-answer final exams on the decline?

Culture | Grace Ellison for The Clarion

Out with the tests, in with the projects

With final exams on the decline, students are doing less studying and more researching and writing in preparation for final projects and papers. | Drea Chalmers

As the finals frenzy approaches, fewer Bethel students may be flipping through flash cards and attending study sessions as more professors opt for presentations, papers and other project-based finals.

Erin Gallagher, a junior art student, doesn’t mind the apparent shift. Only two of Erin’s six classes include tests during finals week.
“Tests are way more stressful than projects,” she said. “You can make sure you do well on projects, but with tests, you never know what the professor will surprise you with.”

For some professors who have opted for project-based finals over traditional exams, the decision comes from a desire to see their students apply what they have learned.

Adjunct instructor Theresa Downing, who teaches Gallagher’s art history class, asked her students to prepare a presentation for their final this semester.

“This final allows them an opportunity to share research about a contemporary artist...and to bring the critical reading and writing skills they have been developing all semester long to fruition,” Downing said.

Louise Wilson, head of Bethel’s education department, likes the idea of projects as finals and said that students mostly learn by applying what they have studied.

She explained that in today’s world, with information at our fingertips, the need for students to memorize a lot of information is dwindling.
Wilson added, “Instructors should develop students’ abilities to find information, use it effectively and put it together.”

Junior nursing student Becca Lewis, who said she finds this trend to be true, still prefers tests as finals.

“Tests are real, true assessments of what you’ve learned,” she said.

According to Lewis, projects are less fair assessments because students can get help online, from friends or from professors, so they are not required to learn the information for themselves.

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