As you might know already evaluating learning outcomes is very difficult. For example, student feedback is not always reliable; there are studies showing inverse relations between student learning and student ratings (eg. a course that managed to challenge students).
One potential idea is to have the final exam (or even midterms) in the math course written by someone else other than the instructors. Here are some pros:
The instructors’ bias. By having the final exam questions designed by someone else, we substract the frequent issue of (consciously/unconsciously) training the students to pass the final exam. Ultimately the goal of the course is to help the students tackle outside-world challenges using the techniques from the course.
Fitting grades into a bell curve bias. Another frequent issue is being pressured from the department to adjust the test difficulty so that the grades fit the bell curve. So this often leads to unrealistically difficult tests that are less about testing a student’s understanding and more about lowering the average grade.
Smaller percentage grade and instructor performance: The main goal here is to test student learning in an independent way and thus instructor performance. So we can have the final exam grade worth less. We can allow the instructor to spread the grade weight across the learning modules (more quizzes less big tests) to encourage active learning throughout the course.
Here are some cons:
some Course flexibility lost. By “offshoring” the final exam, the course material will have to be suited within some strict guidelines. Meaning that instructors will not be able to test new ideas that they presented during the course.
Too much emphasis on the final exam. This might lead to too much emphasis on the final exam, and less on active learning throughout the course. But that is an existing problem with the current paradigm and if the final exam relative percentage is not too high, that issue can be ameliorated.
“Who will design the final exam?” The main issue here is to have the designer of the exam be independent of the course and that can be hard since the professor faculty is quite small. It might introduce a lot of unnecessary politics. Ideally, the process could be automated using technology (i.e. some algorithmic way of sampling exam questions from a database)
Any feedback, references or anecdotes are welcomed. Do you see any problems with this idea? Is the existing way (exams designed by the instructors) better than what suggested?
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