Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Final Exams or Epic Finales

The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 28th, 2015

"Goodbye," she whispered. And I never saw her again.
The course was introductory astronomy, a popular elective for students fulfilling a science requirement. After 15 weeks of lectures, discussions, problem-solving, quiz-taking, and group projects, she and her fellow students had nearly reached the end. The classroom was mostly silent as they worked on their final exams. She was done, though. And before I could even say, "Have a nice summer," she was gone.
Of course, that experience wasn’t with just that one student. It was with hundreds of them. One after another, semester after semester, they completed their final exams, said a hushed farewell or thank you, and left the room to move on with their lives.
That is not how a course should end.
Fast-forward a decade and nearly everything in that scenario is different. My class size has dropped from 30 students to 20. I’m team-teaching the course with a professor in the philosophy department. Instead of covering the entire universe in a semester, we focus in depth on one topic: astronomers’ search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

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