December 13, 2020 5:13 pm

Norman Eng

Provide an optional final. This is a collection of questions pulled from the weekly quizzes. It your course is scored out of 1000 points, this final could be worth, say, 100-150 points.

This relieves you of negotiating every missed quiz or assignment. Students all want an exception made for them, so instead, tell them not to worry. They can make up those 20 points by taking the optional final.

It also serves as a nice review of the course.

Obviously, not every instructor can do this, but giving students choice is an idea that can be applied to other areas of teaching.

I just like the idea that some students may decide to forgo the final if, for instance, they’ve already scored above 940 points during the semester, which would qualify as an A! Something to think about next term as we think ahead.

Thanks to Lisa P., who teaches for the Film program @UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media, for this tip!

Might an optional final work for your course? Leave comments below.

  • While I can’t do an optional final, I like this idea of providing some other way for students to “make-up” some assignment. I can easily see giving one more optional quiz, instead of final near the end of semester. I’ll experiment for next spring and let you know! Thanks.

  • Allowing an optional final puts some students at a disadvantage. Students who have an A already can put more time into studying for their other courses. So, some students are studying for 3-4 finals while others need to study for five finals. This latter group is at a disadvantage in the amount of time they have available for each final exam.

    • I hear you, Charles. One could plan the semester so that all the points are accounted for before the finals, i.e., all the quizzes + assignments = 900 points, which would be an A. And then those that missed a quiz or did poorly can do this as “extra credit.” So actually, it’s to help those that struggled most. That’s another way to think of it.

  • I like the idea of a comprehensive final exam and integrate it (when time permits) into most of my courses. That said, I typically have 4 exams during the course and each is worth 100pts – I try to lean more heavily on awarding points for discussions, practical assignment activities, and other team or group-like engagement. I’ve found that some of my students are really not good test takers, but are excellent communicators and engagers – while others are phenomenal test takers and essay writers, but no so much on the engagement side of things.
    Since my courses focus on Criminal Justice, Security, Drone Administration, etc., there is much more need for my students to develop and hone their interpersonal communication skills, than demonstrate their memorization skills.

    • I’m like you as well, Eugene, in placing less emphasis on finals and more on the work students do everyday—discussions, participating, reading, assignments, etc. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • As a Vocational Educator teaching high school seniors and adults to become outstanding Pharmacy Technicians, I find your concept interesting.

    There are indeed those students who learn well. Who are organized, demonstrate excellent skills and techniques, and who communicate very well. And mixed across the physical classroom are others who are not well organized, yet! Who are challenged in demonstrating the knowledge behind demonstrating great skills and techniques, and for whom either English is not their first language, or, if it is, they have not yet developed good communication skills to this point in the 9-month program.

    They must retain knowledge for our national certification exam. Learn not memorize. To me there’s a great difference. Anatomy, Physiology, and the Top 200 drugs with understanding of interactions and side effects is only “part” of knowledge they gain and must retain! Pharmacy calculations is another area requiring knowledge and skills, or medication and IV orders could go very far wrong.

    One thing found with many students over the years is commitment to quality and to excellence. I was blessed to be raised with these principles instilled from childhood. Working to instill this from the outside is challenging, at best. While giving students my all, I “must” maintain balance for the long haul. I tell them “I cannot want this for you more than you want it for yourself.” Lives are at stake at the end of their thought processes, words, and whatever they touch/do!

  • I’ve used the optional final essay for several semesters in my Composition classes. If students have reached the number of points they need (for a C) or want (for a B or an A), that essay is optional.
    It has taken some explaining and repetition to convince them they won’t lose points for not submitting the final essay.
    Once they get it, they’re relieved to be able to focus on final exams for other classes.
    I frame it as a privilege they’ve earned by working hard all semester.
    And, because it’s a reflective essay on how they view their progress as a writer during the semester, some submit it anyway. I love that!

  • I am excited about this option for our fundamentals of public speaking course. Students are always wanting extra credit for things not related to speaking. We are creating an option impromptu speech during finals for students who are seeking to increase their grade. This will allow students to engage in a skill that they can actually use and get feedback, rather than just seeking out points for points sake.

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