The end of every semester brings chaos among students. Teachers are cramming in the last few weeks to teach the materials on the final exam. So in turn, students are often trying to learn new ideas in the last few sessions of the class. In my opinion, this is not the way to learn. There is no point in having tests in classes that we are required to take because we will just forget everything after the test anyway.
If you ask any teacher why we have final exams, they will most likely tell you one of three reasons:
1. “If we don’t test it, the students won’t want to learn it”
2. “To find out what students actually know”
3. “Hold teachers accountable for their teaching”
These are not plausible reasons to have exams.
To argue the first point, if a teacher makes an effort in teaching materials in a way that students will remember, like activities, videos, games, etc, then students will likely want to learn the material. It is beneficial to have a positive atmosphere in the classroom because that increases learning. If a teacher is teaching by lecturing and not interacting with the students, they will just mindlessly listen without really taking the ideas in.
If teachers are testing students to “find out what they know,” they most likely already know what the results will be. Good students will do good, and bad students will do poorly. This is not always related to what a student knows. There is a very real phobia some students have of taking tests where they may know the information, but are unable to process it while taking a test. Also, in most cases, it is all about memorization anyway. So this depends on how well a student can memorize the material, not necessarily how well they understand it.
Some teachers do not teach in a way that is suitable for all students. There is often a debate on teaching vs. teaching to the exam. Many may teach students only what they should know that will be on the test. This is missing out on things that students may be able to learn. It does not cover the full scope of the subject. Teachers often just stick with the same material they have always taught because they feel tethered to it. If we hold teachers accountable for their teaching and some students do not do well on tests, what is that reflecting? The way the teacher taught the students? Or the amount of information a particular student retained?
It is better to engage the students in a way where they will want to learn. I often don’t learn by just reciting information. The best way for me to learn is by a hands-on approach. This could be activities done in class that apply to what we are learning. Some people may learn better the other way, but I prefer to learn by experience. That way, if I have to think about an idea, I can connect it to an experience or activity that was done in class to help me remember.
I feel students would learn more efficiently if finals were done away with. Rather than memorizing things that will soon be forgotten, teachers could propose final projects in place of a final exam. That way, students can apply what they have learned in a hands-on approach. I think this would benefit a student more than taking a final ever would.