News

The Path to Public Service at SEAS

News

Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum

News

Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President

News

Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study

News

Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum

CUE Debates Plan to Shorten Final Exam Period

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Final exam period may be shortened from nine to eight days next year under a proposal presented to the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) meeting yesterday.

The current nine-day spring exam period ends every year on the Saturday prior to Memorial Day.

"The academic year now goes into Memorial Day weekend and that causes all sorts of problems," said Registrar Georgene B. Herschbach, who presented the proposal to the committee.

Supervisor of Examinations Thomas Lynch noted that an average of about 20 students per semester submit requests to reschedule Saturday exams due to religious conflicts.

Herschbach also said removing the ninth day from the fall exam period would add an extra day to intersession.

"There is a very short turnaround time between the fall and spring terms," she said. "Students ask us for more breathing room between terms."

Lynch said the primary concern of the Registrar's Office is that an eight-day exam period would increase the number of "doubles" and "triples," or students who take multiple exams in one day.

To test the effects of the proposal, Assistant Registrar for Scheduling Joseph D. Maruca developed a computer simulation using data from the last six semesters.

Maruca found a shortened exam period would have resulted in more doubles and triples in each of the last six semesters.

But Lynch cautioned that the computer simulation did not take into account those classes which are assigned to more than one exam group.

"We believe the number of doubles and triples would have been significantly lower if we had optimized and chosen the optimal exam groups" for classes assigned to more than one exam group, Lynch said. "We believe an eight-day schedule is possible."

Herschbach also suggested that more conflicts could be avoided by designating additional courses with tentative exam dates "to be announced."

But Marco B. Simons '97, a CUE member and the chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the Undergraduate Council, said students would not favor any more courses with exam dates "to be announced."

"For many students, the time of the exam is a consideration in course selection," he said.

Simons also said he was concerned that shortening the exam period might reduce students' exam performance, especially for those students faced with doubles and triples.

But Herschbach said there is no evidence that shortening the exam period from 11 days to the current nine days has affected students' final exam performance.

In some ways, he said, the shorter exam period seems to help students.

"House masters have even said that attention levels went up when the nine-day period was instituted," Herschbach said.

Most students on the committee said they favored the proposal.

"The idea of adding an extra day of intersession is especially appealing to me," said Tobias B. Kasper '97.

But Simons said he would like to see the registrar take even more steps to accommodate student needs.

"What I would like to see is flexibility with regard to when students can take their exams," he said. "I think in this regard Harvard is a little more Draconian than some [other] schools."

Thinking About Teaching

The committee also continued its discussion of Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell's forthcoming letter to the Faculty on concerns about the teaching of undergraduates.

Many committee members suggested a possible solution to be encouraging professors to regularly visit class sections taught by teaching fellows (TFs) to observe their methods.

"Part of it's TF evaluation. Part of it's to get a sense of where the students are, to gauge what students are having difficulties with," said Baird Professor of Physics Gary J. Feldman.

Rebecca E. Stich '98 said she believes professors should play a minimal role in teaching during visits to sections.

"I think it's not so much small group access to what a professor has to say, but to have a professor acknowledge and listen to what a student has to say," Stich said. "That's what sections are for."

Sarah K. Hurwitz '99 presented a "grading standardization policy" to ensure uniform grading standards by TFs throughout various types of classes.

In her proposal, Hurwitz suggested that papers should be graded by more than one TF whenever possible.

But faculty members and TFs agreed that TFs already spend too much time grading papers and exams and that other solutions should be examined.

"What you really should suggest is that the whole group of TFs go over a group of papers with the professor in a room and decide, OK, this is what an A paper should be like," said Carlos A. Lopez, who is president of the Graduate Student Council.

Buell cautioned, however, that grade standardization might discourage student creativity.

"Standardization sounds like you put it all in a blender and there goes originality, creativity," Buell said

"For many students, the time of the exam is a consideration in course selection," he said.

Simons also said he was concerned that shortening the exam period might reduce students' exam performance, especially for those students faced with doubles and triples.

But Herschbach said there is no evidence that shortening the exam period from 11 days to the current nine days has affected students' final exam performance.

In some ways, he said, the shorter exam period seems to help students.

"House masters have even said that attention levels went up when the nine-day period was instituted," Herschbach said.

Most students on the committee said they favored the proposal.

"The idea of adding an extra day of intersession is especially appealing to me," said Tobias B. Kasper '97.

But Simons said he would like to see the registrar take even more steps to accommodate student needs.

"What I would like to see is flexibility with regard to when students can take their exams," he said. "I think in this regard Harvard is a little more Draconian than some [other] schools."

Thinking About Teaching

The committee also continued its discussion of Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell's forthcoming letter to the Faculty on concerns about the teaching of undergraduates.

Many committee members suggested a possible solution to be encouraging professors to regularly visit class sections taught by teaching fellows (TFs) to observe their methods.

"Part of it's TF evaluation. Part of it's to get a sense of where the students are, to gauge what students are having difficulties with," said Baird Professor of Physics Gary J. Feldman.

Rebecca E. Stich '98 said she believes professors should play a minimal role in teaching during visits to sections.

"I think it's not so much small group access to what a professor has to say, but to have a professor acknowledge and listen to what a student has to say," Stich said. "That's what sections are for."

Sarah K. Hurwitz '99 presented a "grading standardization policy" to ensure uniform grading standards by TFs throughout various types of classes.

In her proposal, Hurwitz suggested that papers should be graded by more than one TF whenever possible.

But faculty members and TFs agreed that TFs already spend too much time grading papers and exams and that other solutions should be examined.

"What you really should suggest is that the whole group of TFs go over a group of papers with the professor in a room and decide, OK, this is what an A paper should be like," said Carlos A. Lopez, who is president of the Graduate Student Council.

Buell cautioned, however, that grade standardization might discourage student creativity.

"Standardization sounds like you put it all in a blender and there goes originality, creativity," Buell said

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags