Helpful Hints for Creating Finals or ‘Finales’

Finals are quickly approaching at many universities and instructors are figuring out the best ways to gauge students’ learning. For some teachers this could take the form of a standard pen-and-paper exam, but there are other ways to assess learning, writes Kevin Gannon, a professor of history at Grand View University and director of its Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, in a recent Chronicle op-ed. In the article, Gannon outlines different ways that teachers can evaluate students’ learning at the end of the course, including holding a colloquium or poster session for students to present their work, presenting a gallery for creative work, or holding a “finale,” or an epic final class that inspires students to engage with the material in the future. These techniques might not work for everyone, though, so there are other ways to improve standard final exams, Gannon writes. Teachers can crowdsource exam writing, have students contribute questions or essay prompts, and ask colleagues or a teaching center on campus to take the test or look over prompts. “Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for final exams. But my conversations with colleagues also made me realize that not thinking about what I was doing at the end of the semester — and, more important, why I was doing it — was a form of pedagogical malpractice,” Gannon writes.