In-Class Essay Conversions

Or “Revising Exams for Easier Grading”

For someone teaching a 5/5 history course who gives 10 or so quizzes, three essay exams in class, one research paper, and one comprehensive final exam, the CHE forumite new_bus_prof suggested:

Part I take home short essay(s) with word count ranges and Part II in class multiple choice/ identification.

As a two-part final, the longer term paper could be converted into a shorter essay while still permitting the multiple choice/ identification in-class final exam part. Note, the key here is to have the take home as Part I, so students complete it and turn it in on the day of Part II.

While this gives you 6 moving parts (3 two-part exams), it does capture what you want. You can extend the word count ranges as the course progresses (500 to 900, 1000 to 1250, 1500 +).

This provides grounds for good documentation for ALL essays, prevents you from reading bad handwriting, allows the second part to be scantron, and the format to be consistent throughout the course.

In addition, if you have a standing policy that exams are not returned to students, then there is little need to provide all the commentary, just brief notes to yourself on what you took points off for.

Then polly_mer responded:

If you go this route and your students are anything like mine, then you may want to have a visit-your-exam policy. For the week after the exams are graded, students may come to student hours or make an appointment to visit their exams. Only a handful of the students ever come visit their exams, but no one complains, “We weren’t allowed to find out what we did wrong so that we could improve”. You also don’t have the headache of collecting back all the exams if you let students review them in class.

I particularly like this idea because today I was in a lecture by a psych prof talking about learning research and he said that retrieval practice (answering questions, test taking, etc), even without feedback, is the best for learning, based on research.
Karpicke, et al. “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborate Studying.” Science 331, 772 (2011). DOI: 10.1126/science.1199327.

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