Reviewing for the First Exam

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. I’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 wouldn’t be looking for obscure items from the readings to test them on, that I wasn’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 hadn’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 wasn’t giving the students who completed the meta assignments an unfair advantage—it was as if they were getting extra help before the exam—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 wasn’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 didn’t do them, they wouldn’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.

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