Cancellation of final exams prompts alternative assessment methods

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For years, students have been taking sit-down final exams at the end of each school year. As a result of remote learning, these exams have been cancelled for this year, and teachers have had to come up with alternative solutions for assignments. 

Often, English classes write essays or have final Harknesses instead of an exam during finals week. At this point, most teachers are substituting all tests for papers or projects anyways, including most English and history classes, which are writing papers in lieu of a final. For these two subjects, using essays for a last assessment is a simple solution. Examining the topics that these classes have been focusing on with comparisons and arguments is effective in these departments, while others have to stray further from their regular exams. 

Many classes outside of English and history are using existing projects as final assessments. French teacher Ryan Brodeur presented a project (consisting of a presentation and paper) to each of his classes earlier this year. “Because I already had a major project, it wasn’t hard for me to change my final,” Mr. Brodeur said. He also separated his classes’ papers from their related presentations, and shifted them to Flipgrid so that they could be done remotely. “I think an upside to this is that I was able to spread things out a little bit more so that students are able to focus on their paper for a moment,” he explained. This is an example of what many language classes are doing: recorded presentations, which allow for more practice and take away some stress from presenting live. 

The use of previously planned projects also extends to some science classes. “We used a project that we think does a good job tying a lot of content together into one creative presentation,” biology teacher Kata Baker said. These research projects are also being presented through recordings. “Science is tricky to put into one ball,” Mrs. Baker said. “I think science lends itself well to projects, but we really like the sit down, traditional tests in a way.” 

She explained that a drawback of these projects in the place of tests is that students don’t get to recap all the information they’ve learned since January. “If we were back in school, it would’ve been natural that we covered more information,” she said. “It also would mean that students would be able to piece things together while studying, which I think is a really effective way of solidifying this information.”

Since math classes are primarily driven by testing, it is comparatively more difficult for this department to switch to final projects. Additionally, the end of the year is still an important time for math students, since most material continues as class levels advance. “I think projects can be very useful in math if they’re applied the right way,” math teacher Danielle Hoff explained. 

Her classes, including Algebra 2 and Precalculus are planning last projects, which will include newly learned material that the rest of this year has built up to. For math classes, this could be an interesting opportunity to explore more learning styles outside of traditional testing.

“Nowadays, curriculums are going towards more project based learning,” Ms. Hoff said. “I think that this can be seen as a good push to start working towards ways to change class, so we can get through material and also find creative ways to learn outside of testing.”