Lazy Academics

It’s final exam time, and my office is packed with a few of the 520 students in my bigger class. Although I’m pleased by their interest, I ask why they’re spending so much time on my course. The answer is that it’s the only final exam they have.

In their sociology, government and some other introductory courses, the instructor either gives no final exam or gives an hour exam the last day of class. Apparently this is fairly common in some departments, but I am outraged – what a pathetically lazy bunch of faculty! Worse still, their malfeasance imposes a negative externality on me. Because mine is the last (only) final exam for some of my students, even though my exam is early in exam week I’ve gotten numerous requests for an early exam from students who want to go home early. I say no, but why should I have to be the “bad guy” because other faculty are shirking?

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  1. VB in NV says:

    Blame your university. Finals should be required and those instructors who don’t follow rules should be fired.

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  2. Mickey says:

    I’ve had the same. Students buy tickets for the middle of finals week, assuming they are not going to have finals. When I was assigned to have my STATs final on the last day of Finals week, a bunch of students asked to to have it the first day of finals, because they did not have any other tests.

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  3. Steven says:

    I can understand your frustration. My question is whether or not there is research that shows that a final exam is truly a good measure of what the students take from the course? When I got my Ph.D. in Engineering, there was often a final project in lieu of a final exam because the professors felt that it better assessed our higher level understanding of the concepts of the course. I’m not saying that you should have a final exam, I would just like to know if there is research one way or another.

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  4. Alyssa Buckley says:

    I agree! What is exam week if there are no exams? I’m thinking about the student side, too. I remember my exam weeks, and it was all about studying for biology, then the next day it was economics, then it was calculus. There’s some value in students working hard and proving their knowledge retention in one test.

    If faculty stop doing finals, let’s just get all the students out early then!

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  5. Jenn says:

    Some adjunct professors (who teach 60% of all classes) in the City University of New York system are not compensated for final exam week (i.e. are not paid.) I don’t blame some for not administering a final exam during final exam week, since, of course, they are not paid. Add up the countless hours spent reading, commenting on, and grading final papers (15 pages per student in a class of 30, teaching 4 classes just to make ends meet.. you do the math), grading final exams, calculating grades for the semester, and dealing with scores of last-minute emails, grade grubbing, and students attempting to hand in missing assignments.. well, it’s no wonder.

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  6. JE says:

    Please, Professor Hamermesh. Rather than name-calling directed at your colleagues following students’ claims and efforts to extricate themselves from an exam, find the strength to stand up to your students and explain that, regardless of whether they have final exams in their other classes, your class has one.

    In some of my classes I use final exams. They are important for what they help measure. They are not an option students can choose, and I am comfortable telling this to students. In other classes I assign take-home exams or papers that cover material from the last segment of the semester. These are my decisions based on the design of my classes.

    “Lazy”? “Malfeasance”? Why should I be required to give final exams in all my classes because a few students whined to you about your exam? Again, please focus on your class, what it requires, and your own authority.


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  7. Oscar says:

    I don’t give a final exam in my upper year undergraduate course. It is not because I am lazy. Rather, it is because I don’t think exams are relevant to the way we now use information. My students complete term assignments that actually use the skills I’ve tried to teach (critical thinking, analysis of scientific studies, translation of scientific articles to summaries for a general audience etc). This feels more comparable to the skills scientists use in analyzing scientific publications and the way the majority of the population (including the majority of my students, who will never again see a science article after they graduate) must try to understand the media presentation of science. Memorizing and regurgitating for exams or writing essays under the artificial time constraints of an exam does not mimic the way we use information.
    Perhaps you feel an exam is a good test of your students’ knowledge, but please consider that your fellow faculty who use alternative evaluation methods may not agree with you and may have dropped their finals for reasons other than laziness. Imagine, we may actually want our students to understand and be able to apply what they have learned!

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  8. f0ilestSP says:

    As a student, my last exam is scheduled on the 22nd, allowing me to fly home the 23rd for a mere 2 week long Christmas break.

    Would I be wrong in stating that staff might also be interested in a longer break to do some of their own studies and/or prepare for next semesters’ classes??

    Sometimes with the academic calendar it can be a stressful time and I’m sure professors are swayed towards finishing their class early as well…

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