Question Detail

I would love to encourage my high school teachers to begin using 'Non-traditional' Final exams. Does anyone have any advice on this or samples to get the conversation going? I want the exams to be more of an application process instead of a regurgitation of a semester's worth of information.

Dec 2, 2015 2:46pm

  • English Language Arts / Math / Science / Technology
  • 9-12
  • Assessment


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    • Dec 5, 2015 8:53am

      And hopefully, teachers have been engaging students in assessments that are fair and reflective of students' learning like through project-based products, through portfolios, observations, and interviews long before any kind of written exam. So may be your teachers are already doing the non-traditional assessments. I wonder if you had already looked into your staff who might already be doing them. I would guess that teachers who are not giving written exams like your phys-Ed, shops, band & music, dance, computer, home-Ec teachers could be your go-to guys. Additionally even if we are talking about the traditional subjects like math, sciences, and the arts, some of them could already be doing the non-traditional ways of assessing. So you could start the conversation there.

      • Dec 5, 2015 12:21pm

        Socratic Circle discussions with articles that require students to use content from the entire term works well for me. I use them throughout the term to teach discussion skills and content so they know what to expect, how to plan for them and demonstrate their knowledge through discussion. The students also turn in their planning so I can assess their analysis and connections to class that they may not have come up through the group's discussion.

        Another way I constructed my final was to have the students construct their own meaning for the course by creating a graphic organizer. The graphic organizer includes each unit, connections between the units, how the class changed their thinking. The students were given questions for each of the three sections which required academic writing, a possible way to organize it graphically, and examples to show from previous courses. When they were finished it was clear how well they understood the class as a whole. To prepare students for this I do similar types of writing throughout the term to provide feedback, ask them to show how the activities and readings of the unit related and helped change their thinking.

        Both of these options require using the whole exam time and are given to the students days earlier to start preparing, working on it, and it allows me to help students who may need more support. Both demonstrate content and skills from the entire term.

        • Dec 5, 2015 7:17pm

          I've been doing interviews for many years in my history classes. These are now structured around a couple of essential questions. I've posted my examples on my website and I have recorded audio of some students. Contact me and I can send it to you.

          • Dec 2, 2015 6:39pm

            While the idea seems noble, how might students react especially when some will be attending colleges where written exams might be the norm? Is it really wise to phase these out, I wonder. As the admin you should be reviewing the exam to ensure that students are being given the opportunity to synthesize knowledge and not just do the "rinse-lather-and-repeat". This brings to question the idea of authentic assessment or would this create inefficiency. I believe in balance and ongoing assessments including performance based kinds.

            • Dec 8, 2015 7:16pm

              I'm currently in a Master's of Arts in Teaching program now and we are learning a lot of alternative ways of teaching. We are learning how to think for ourselves and find more ways to adapt to our own students. While I would imagine some administration would not like finals like you talked about, I think that new teachers just our of master's programs definitely would be interested. Perhaps teachers who have been teaching a long time could take some classes to keep them up on technological and other new things that are happening in education. This will expose them to new ideas so that they can see that these other types of finals can be part of a new positive movement for students.