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Examining the Importance of Final Exams

A college cannot run without all of its cogs in sync. From the administration, to the professors, to the custodians, to the students, and everyone in between, all are necessary for a college to succeed as an institution. If one cog falls out of place, the college machine as a whole will suffer.

Joe Brown
Editor in Chief

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

A college cannot run without all of its cogs in sync. From the administration, to the professors, to the custodians, to the students, and everyone in between, all are necessary for a college to succeed as an institution. If one cog falls out of place, the college machine as a whole will suffer.

Not all cogs are equal in almost any organization. This is true for any college or university as well. The administration is designed to hold more power in order to make sure that the rest of the institution’s cogs continue rotating smoothly. Without one source holding power, an organization would devolve into chaos. History has proven that a socialist structure is destined to crumble upon itself when given enough time.

Look at the United States’ government. It is a democracy, yet there is an obvious leader of the country. Still, the president is not a dictator because there is a system of checks and balances that respect his power, yet keep one source from making all of the decisions alone. In a democratic system, even the most powerful person in America (politically speaking) is still held accountable for his or her decisions.

Why should a college be any different?

The administration team is similar to the president. They wield the power to make institutional decisions that the rest of the college’s cogs – such as the professors, staff and students – must follow. When it comes to Springfield College, an overwhelming amount of these decisions are positive. They rarely have to be questioned because they are sound and improve the college in one way or another.

That is what makes the recent edict regarding mandatory final exam dates all the more confusing. Professors were informed via email that the college is enforcing a pre-existing policy that every course is required to meet on a final exam day. The policy does not enforce the distribution of a final exam, just that professors hold a final exam period on their designated day and time.

I understand that this edict comes from an administration level and that it is attempting to enforce a pre-existing policy to improve academic standards. The purpose behind the edict is there. The policy itself is not quite as foolproof.

Since when should teachers of any level be told how they should teach? Professors are no exception. If a professor does not believe that a final exam is necessary for his or her course, what is the point of a class being forced to meet on the final exam day?

Every class is different and is comprised of varying requirements. Some classes are based on projects with very little to no exams. Some are lab-based. Others are quiz and test heavy. Forcing professors to conform their class requirements is an unproductive way to foster a positive learning environment.

The professors that believe a final exam is conducive to their teaching style and course layout will hold an exam without being forced. Others who challenge their students in alternative ways and choose not to hold a final exam should not be told to gather their students for a final exam period simply to fulfill a policy. Why should professors be forced to host a class on their final exam day if they do not plan on giving students a final exam?

The edict to enforce a pre-existing policy makes perfect sense. Why have a policy if it is not being followed? Perhaps the answer to that question is not to simply enforce the broken policy, however. Perhaps the better solution is to take a serious look at the policy and see why it is broken in the first place.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to rewrite this policy and instead require that all professors hold some sort of final examination, whether that is a traditional final exam or an alternative method, such as a final project that is collected and/or presented on the final exam day? If increasing academic standards is the ultimate goal of this recent edict, a rewritten policy, such as the one suggested above, would better fulfill that goal than merely forcing professors to require that students show up for a final exam period that they do not have any intention of utilizing.

Professors should not be told how to teach. They should be allowed the freedom and flexibility to design their courses (and final examination methods) in a manner that they believe will benefit students’ learning the most. Without this freedom, the ensuing results will limit the effectiveness of professors whose teaching styles and courses do not match the traditional test-heavy format.

We can do better than enforcing a policy for the sake of enforcing it. Instead, let’s rethink if the policy is actually worth keeping, or if maybe instead, the policy is flawed and should be rewritten to achieve a more beneficial result for all parties involved.

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