Weeks 1-5 of the semester: lectures, reading assignments, homework (some of which is collected and graded). Maybe a quiz or two.
Week 6 of the semester: TESTS!
Every semester is the same thing. Each class arrives at big assignments at the same time: tests always seem to land in the same week. As do project assignments and due dates. Of course, Finals Week is designed that way intentionally.
How can we stay on top of it all?
This post is an ongoing discussion about staying in the zone, all semester.
Course materials often serve the convenience of the instructor, not the learning of the student
Unfortunately, teachers can suffer from a lack of intentionality as well as students. We often use certain practices “because we always have” or “because that’s how everyone does it.” And so we all follow the same basic framework for our classes: midterm and final exam, or 2 tests and a final. The result is that exams for all courses fall in the same week or two. Students get stressed, learning and engagement diminish.
This lack of coordination between courses may actually arise by design: if the original intention of school was to produce compliant workers, then stacking exams in the same week is a control tool. I’d like to think we’re past that stage now. But it doesn’t mean that we have finished rooting out its remains from our practice.
Teachers: let’s work to teach passion, motivation. Then we won’t need stop gates like periodic exams to force students to buckle down and learn.
While we’re at it, let’s start working together to integrate our curriculum. Part of this will entail staggering big assignments to promote a reasonable learning atmosphere.
Students: learn with intention
The educational system may have encouraged you to follow blindly, but you shouldn’t. We need leaders, not instruction-followers.
You should never be afraid to ask your teacher the following questions:
- “What is the educational value or intention of this assignment?”
- “How will this help me reach my dreams?”
Please ask us. Ask us because you want to be sure that you spend your precious time on learning activities that will help you to grow.
Ask us because, contrary to popular belief, we don’t have a grand plan. Most of us are making this up as we go. Why? Because we are always trying to do better for you. But if you don’t ask, we don’t have feedback until we see your performance on a test. Yikes.