Though I’m sure this post may not be entirely new or anything groundbreaking, I want to make a case for the true cumulative final.
When I was in high school, I remember nearly each and every class having a cumulative final. Teachers would go over information with us and we would have to think back to the mass of knowledge given throughout the semester. Once I hit college, this was not always the case. Cumulative finals were exchanged for projects and regular old tests. Though cumulative finals seemed intimidating, and I gladly accepted the change, as I reached junior and senior year, I realized I actually missed having cumulative finals. As strange as it was, I actually wanted to go through the old material and have a chance review things from months ago. Though I certainly had the ability to go over it regardless of if I was tested over it or not, something about having it on a test helps it to stick better, right?
This realization greatly affected my first year of teaching, as I made a commitment to having students do a real and cumulative final. Though I was very positive about this being the best option for student learning, I was sure the students would not be excited. I decided to take a page out of a few previous teachers’ books. I decided the test would be made up entirely of questions from their old tests. This would save me time in creating the test, and it would allow students to have every question available to study (plus they have answered all of the questions before). To make things even easier, I decided to go through old tests with the students and tell them what questions are going to be on the final, and read through the correct answers. At this point, it may seem too easy, but let me explain:
- Students still need to think back to questions from 4+ months in the past. Though the information didn’t change, it tough for many to think back that far.
- Students still need to review the many questions, especially those they got wrong. It is an intensive and thorough review process.
- Finally, there is still a lot of information – I make sure the final hits all major topics from our old tests, usually resulting in a 175+ question test.
The last thing I made sure to do in my final, is to have it NOT just be Scantron. Though I understand why many teachers do it, I still felt the need to have students do questions which test their knowledge more thoroughly. I certainly have some questions that are multiple choice and true/false, but many questions are fill in the blank and many questions where students need to briefly describe something. When it comes to grading time, yes I am jealous of those who Scantron and are done, but I do feel confident that I am thoroughly preparing students and testing student’s knowledge. Maybe my theory will change in the future, but for now I stand firm.
Try it, and see what you can learn.