Thursday, November 24, 2011

How Nice Are You?

In 2008 at this time of year (that is, the Thanksgiving holiday in the US), I had a post about whether or not I give exams just before a major holiday break (I do not). As usual, there were some interesting comments, but I think this question deserves a poll in 2011.

In this poll, a "No" answer implies a deliberate choice to not give an exam or quiz before a major break (you can explain why in the comments).

An answer of "Maybe" implies that you don't really pay attention to holidays/breaks and you just create the schedule however makes the most sense for the class/topic; if a quiz falls just before (or just after) a break, so be it.

A "Yes" answer implies that you deliberately schedule exams just before a break because .. (explain in the comments); e.g., this ensures attendance, you'd rather give an exam just before than just after a break, you are evil etc.


Do you give exams just before a major holiday break?
No, never
Maybe, if that's the way the schedule turns out
Yes, very often or always
  
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16 comments:

Alex said...

Define "Just before." I gave one on Monday of this week. But I would never give one on the Wednesday before...because then I'd have to grade over the holiday.

brooklebee said...

As a student, I always preferred to have exams before breaks--it made the holiday feel deserved and stress-free rather than guilt-inducing and frantic. Why would you want to schedule an exam for after a break?

mOOm said...

This way the students don't have to study over the holiday for the exam.

Anonymous said...

As someone going back through uni as an adult, I prefer exams before holidays to exams afterwards. Exams after the holidays mean I dont spend that time concentrating on being with my family, but in exam prep mode instead.

Professor of Strangeness said...

Plus you get more time to grade (assuming you are not so behind in your grading that you have to spend the break catching up)

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I voted "maybe", because I don't pay that much attention to holidays, and I certainly run class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (and expect students to show up).

But perhaps I should have answered "no", because I've mostly given up on exams as a way of assessing students. What I want to know about their abilities requires longer time than an exam, so I rely on homework (mostly programming problems) and term papers.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is kinder to give an exam before the holiday. This year, I gave a lab practical just before the break because there is a lecture midterm in the same class just after the break. My experience is students do not want both exams (which have equal value) in the same week. Also, if they have the lab practical after the break, it will have been a week since they have seen the material, whereas they are usually able to study lab materials during open lab on Thursdays and Fridays.

john said...

I'd rather give an exam just before than just after a break. Our school's schedule usually makes an exam right before break the right place to have an exam. I generally prefer giving exams on Friday so that it's easier to pass back exams the next class day allowing me to give feedback and move on to the next material more smoothly.

cmg said...

I divide my courses in to 2-3 parts, each of which focuses on a particular topic or method. Holidays and fall/spring breaks are a natural point at which to transition from one part to the next. Each part of the course ends with an exam on that topic - hence exams right before break.

cmg said...

P.S. Each year I have several students who leave for break early and thus miss class. These students fall in to two categories: those who inform me of their plans during the first week of the term (as I request on the first day of the term), and those who either inform me a couple of days ahead or not at all.

The first group gets first class treatment from me - I'm happy to give them the exam early, etc.

The second group gets a lecture in having respect for the educational process, which includes respect for the instructors time and energy.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

No categories of the poll really fit my situation: I used to deliberately schedule some graded assignment on the last regular class day before Thanksgiving, mainly because I knew that it was the one week that I'd have several days to grade.

This semester, I've just gone with whatever pattern the semester demanded, rather than it being about me being "nice" or not:

Class 1: No class, but paper conferences so they could work on them over the break. They had the option of doing those conferences the week before, but only if they had their proposals done early (no one did).

Class 2: Lecture, nothing due, but showed part of a really interesting movie, and told them in advance that I'd be doing this.

Class 3 (a night class, meeting once a week): Paper drafts were due, but I made sure that I kept the class shorter than usual -- mostly because there was only very little to do once the papers were collected.

James Annan said...

We often (IIRC) got significant exams at the start of a term, after a long break. I hated them and did poorly, but that's my fault. It did get us up to speed and working properly at the start of term.

Anonymous said...

I asked my students this year if they wanted the first midterm before or after "fall break". They voted overwhelming for before..

Kristin said...

In my physics class (a class taken mostly by science majors) I pick the general time frame for the exam, then let the students vote for the specific day. One year that time frame fell right around Thanksgiving, and the students actually voted to have the exam the day before Thanksgiving. As other commenters have mentioned, I think most students would prefer an exam right before break rather than right after (in fact, I think the worst day for an exam would be the Monday after break!).

Anonymous said...

I voted "no" meaning just before; one of my colleagues gave an exam this past wednedsay from 2-3; the class meets M and W, wouldn't monday have been a better choice?!

jb said...

The past two years, I've scheduled exams the Monday after Thanksgiving and each time, got dinged on the evals regarding that. This year, I changed my exam schedules as we have an extra day and I was able to schedule it to the Wed after Thanksgiving. I'm still waiting to see how that will turn out. I've already received two emails asking to be excused for "family emergency". Sigh.