You exhale. All of it’s done. Your essays, your midterms, your projects, and all else, they’re done. Finally, you feel like you’re over the hump, but there’s one, or up to five things, that stand in your way. Finals.
After all that semester threw on top of you, professors have the gall to throw a final at you? The idea of finals themselves is, in a sense, not intuitive. “Ok, students, sum up everything the course discussed over a whole semester in three hours.” Granted, not all finals are comprehensive, but in my degree, most of them have been.
Finals need to be seriously reconsidered. They are an unnecessary cause of stress for students who are already on the edge. I argue, rather that, some courses be designed in a different way.
This thought came to me as my Politics and the Media class was winding down. Rather than having a final where I study as hard as I can just to probably forget things later on, we did projects and presentations that demanded both critical thinking, and attention to the course material. Finals also focus on course material, but not in the same way. The feeling I have with this class is that I’m walking away with a different skill set than before. I can use this skill set in my other classes’ essays, and in my work.
Also, after university, never will one have to do something like a final again, unless you go on with school, which may or may not have finals. Yet, should higher education have finals?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Finals do certainly have their use, and I’m not arguing for their total abolition. At least in the humanities, they are useful in the 100- and 200-level courses. They are also practical at lower levels (more students, whereas 300 to 400 have far less) and these classes are usually less about critical thinking and more information retention. Furthermore, I’ve actually done really well on finals in my academic career, so I’m not just making this argument from bad experiences.
Although this might not work for certain classes, I believe that for most classes other sorts of assignments and projects might be more productive than cramming for a final. Language classes are obvious exceptions; it’s either you know the language or you don’t. Let’s say I’m taking a class in, the politics of Syria, it would make more sense to do a in depth research project, more than a “term paper” cranked out the night before. I’ve learnt more doing research essays than anything else in my academic career. Research essays should be a choice, obviously within the subject field of the course, because then students will pick something that interests them, thus they will want to learn more, and end up doing a better job on the project.
This was the situation for my Politics and the Media course, because we got to do presentations on media stories on subjects we chose, but to get the marks, we had to use subject material. It was a perfect balance. Also, I don’t have to worry about conflict of interest. I’m not trying to laud my prof, because by the time this article comes out, my course will be done, and I won’t have a final.
Yet, in the meantime, I have four other goddamn finals to prepare for. Good luck everybody.