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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Your “Final” Answer

It ‘s finals week.  In academic classes, finals usually manifest as multiple choice tests, essays or another form of written assessment.  But in the arts, finals can look very different.  Each of us in the visual arts department at my school handles finals differently.  One teacher assigns a final project to each class; another designs a two hour project to be completed in class the day of the final; a few just assign double points for an ongoing project. 

My preference, in addition to a final project, is to give students an open note written assessment that consists of ten content based questions and ten opinion based based questions.  At the close of each semester I feel it is important for students to self reflect on what they enjoyed, disliked, learned and struggled with.  It is equally important for me to decipher any patterns regarding projects that rate favorable reviews and ones that don ‘t. I also find it enlightening to read what students feel they have learned in 18 weeks- often far more than I assume.  

Our drama students collaborate to script, direct and act in a short one act play as their final assignment. Their creative endeavors are performed during lunch breaks to staff and students, offering free and enjoyable campus entertainment.  One of the most dynamic teachers that I ever worked with assigned his final creative writing project with just one caveat- the final could not be turned in on lined notebook paper or white legal sized paper.  The students had to write the final project in any way but normal essay form.  His room was a testament to creative thinking with displays of essays that had been written on boxer shorts, skulls, flags, mannequins, shoes, water skis, and even a hand built guillotine.  As new students entered his class each year, the examples of student innovation on display in his room helped raise the creative bar one notch higher.

Finals should be a chance for students to display what they can do, not just regurgitate knowledge on a bubble sheet.  How do you assess your students ‘ learning? Do you use collaborative projects? How much freedom do you allow students in choosing and designing their final assignment and how do you weight it- equally with other projects or greater in point value?  What ‘s the most creative final you have ever assigned?

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