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Saturday, December 11, 2010

For Extra Credit...

Exams are imperfect.

A written exam is not a always a good measure of ability. Some students think better with a hammer than a pencil. Sometimes it's a learning disability, sometimes performance anxiety. Sometimes the exam sucks.

Try this on for size:

If a pesticide reaches groundwater, it will breakdown
a) Very quickly
b) Quickly
c) Slowly
d) Very slowly

This is an actual question on a certification exam. What's the difference between quickly and very quickly? I have no freaking clue.

Like life insurance, exams are a necessary evil. They measure a student's comprehension and the ability to express that understanding. Still, there are always questions that end up more tricky than challenging. And that's why I have extra credit.

It's not the type of extra credit that's super-challenging. Who invented the lawn mower and what was his daughter's name? If someone gets that right, they don't need extra credit. I give a little bonus at the end of an exam. All you have to do is answer a stupid question and -- boom -- two points.

I've asked everything from what's the last movie that made you cry to what's the most revolting food you've ever eaten. I provide students with my answer and then ask for theirs. Not only is it entertaining, but we learn a lot about each other. There's been some good answers over the years. This semester's Hall of Fame winner had me laughing for days. It comes from a rough-cut guy with a good sense of humor. It goes like this.

Looking back, what clothing or accessory have you worn in younger days that seems ridiculous now? It might have been a fad, maybe you were just cool or perhaps your parents made you wear it... whatever. Any way you slice it, "What was I thinking?"

Student answer
The whole spandex fad in the 80s. Yeah, my mom made me wear spandex bicycle shorts in elementary school. Long and short. Me and my classmates had many black eyes.



  1. I have been wondering just when you were going to start a blog. I knew it was inevitable. And I am happy to say that I am not only reading it but enjoying it. Hannah

  2. Glad to know I almost made the list...