As the end of the semester approaches, the communal stress of campus is felt by everyone. Students are checking grades, preparing for final essays and final projects and professors are trying to get all the semester’s grades in on time.
Among the final essays, projects and exams are a few cases in which finals and final projects are both being given. In those cases, students are overwhelmed and often pick one final over the other to give thorough attention to, while the other assignment receives less attention and less high quality work.
According to a study from the peer-reviewed journal Health Promotion Practice, stress in college students fluctuates depending on the topic. Between the start and end of the semester, perceived stress and test anxiety both go down, but burnout goes up. At first, this seems like a good thing. Less stress because of exams is positive, but the most logical reason for it is upsetting: students stop caring.
By the end of the semester, students have already been through the wringer. You’ve at least taken one other exam, and turned in a few projects or assignments here or there. That causes stress. When 13 or 14 weeks have passed, and classes are wrapping up, some students are resigned to their fate. There are rare stories of students saving a grade with a class, but there are more stories of students failing out of classes because of finals.
We are not asking for finals to be done away with entirely. It’s still useful to have an assessment or culmination of a class’ work at the end of the semester. But having multiple assignments count towards a single final grade is detrimental to students’ mental health.
Different kinds of final grades have different uses and purposes. A final exam works well in a STEM class, because oftentimes in those courses, answers are often correct or wrong in a binary sense. An essay makes sense in an English or creative writing course, because the classes are built around writing. Final projects are perfect for art students. Assigning both final projects and final essays, or a project and an exam confuses and stresses students.
It can also take away the importance of one final by assigning two of them. Students are prepared for one final per class. When a class assigns them two, one obviously has to be put aside, and another must become the main focus. Professors who assign multiple finals should know that it’s almost a guarantee that most students will prioritize one final over the other.
If professors want to ensure they’re measuring their students’ knowledge of the course, then they should do so in the most efficient way possible. The professor saying, “This is the final, summative assessment, to show all you have learned in the class in one grade,” followed with “Also, here is another final, summative assessment to show all you have learned in one grade,” is repetitive and counterintuitive to the concept of finals. This May, if professors could show some grace and some understanding, it would be greatly appreciated. Besides, it’s less grading on their par.
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