The class before the first exam I set aside for three things: reviewing for the exam as I typically do, reviewing Meta 2 and reviewing Meta 3. Iâ€™ve already discussed the Meta reviews so here I want make some other comments about this class session.
First, I explained the format and coverage of the exam: 30 multiple choice questions, covering the first four topics in the syllabus, that is, everything in the required readings and what we did in class. I also said I wouldnâ€™t be looking for obscure items from the readings to test them on, that I wasnâ€™t trying to trick, but rather to genuinely assess what they had learned to date.
Next, I asked for questions, either about the exam itself or about the material. I received a couple of questions and then the class said nothing else.
At that point I announced that we were going on to discuss Meta 2 and Meta 3 so that anyone who hadnâ€™t submitted those should leave. Half the class left, and we proceeded to review Meta 2 about which I posted before. When we were done with Meta 2, I made the same announcement about Meta 3. Another group of students left and we reviewed Meta 3.
I found myself wondering if this was ethical. I wondered if I wasnâ€™t giving the students who completed the meta assignments an unfair advantageâ€”it was as if they were getting extra help before the examâ€”might this not bias the results in favor of my research hypothesis.
I ended up deciding that I thought it was fair. I had asked everyone if they had any questions before we discussed the metas, so it wasnâ€™t that anyone lacked an opportunity to get help they needed. Additionally, I had encouraged everyone to do the meta assignments, and I made clear that if they didnâ€™t do them, they wouldnâ€™t be allowed to participate in the subsequent review.
Still it felt strange to be discussing material about the exam with only a subset of the students. It is, however, consistent with my teaching approach this semester, where I’m putting the responsibility on the students. In the past when reviewing for an exam, I would ask for questions, get a few and then help the group devise and ask questions for the rest of the hour. This time, when they had no questions I cut them loose. It will be interesting to see if this influences more students to complete the metas.