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Teaching College TIP #06: Give An Optional Final

It's one of those, "Wait a minute this is brilliant!" ideas that you might consider...

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by Norman Eng in Blog, Education
December 13, 2020 5 comments

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.

5 Comments
  1. Josh says:

    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.

  2. Charles Nelson says:

    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.

    1. Norman Eng says:

      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.

  3. Eugene says:

    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.
    ~

    1. Norman Eng says:

      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!

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7 PROVEN STEPS TO PLANNING, TEACHING, & ENGAGING YOUR STUDENTS

A Quick-Start Guide

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