Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Testing, testing

Fellow teachers,

What do you do if, ten minutes past the time a (non-standardized) test ought to end, you still have students who won't hand the thing in? My creative approach was to insist a student stop writing and simply remove the exam from that student's desk, then to do the same with the next one. (Most had already handed it in, but not all.) Is there a better way? I've tried the 'I'm leaving with or without your tests' line in previous semesters, but students know I'm not going to actually leave without their tests. Is the answer to follow through and leave? But I don't want to give out zeroes on a final exam! Bah! Something like saying you'll take a point off for each minute has potential, but requires staring at the clock as each student finishes, i.e. makes the whole process worse for student and teacher alike.

Part of why this challenges me is that I was always the kid who'd hand the test in first, whether or not it was a class I was doing well in, so I don't have a whole lot of experience seeing what happens in those final classroom test-taking moments.

So, advice much appreciated.

13 comments:

whichferdinand said...

students know I'm not going to actually leave without their tests

I guess if it's been 10 minutes since the test ended, they do! I think I would just pretend that I'm leaving.

What I do is warn them beforehand that whoever writes anything after the test ends is committing an academic offense, say "stop writing NOW" at the end of the test. After that, a simple "please stop writing" works with whoever didn't stop writing...

Phoebe said...

"After that, a simple "please stop writing" works with whoever didn't stop writing..."

I think this is something that would work some semesters, and not others. But the "academic offense" line has potential.

Paul Gowder said...

The one time I was in charge of a big exam and something like this happened, I just cranked up the authoritative voice and repeated the order to stop with rather more emphasis. It still took some students about 30 seconds to stop, but that's ok.

This may be male privilege though. If that doesn't work, I see nothing wrong with either the snatch it up from under their busy little cheating pencils or leaving strategies. If they choose to ignore your instructions, it's their problem if they get a zero.

Phoebe said...

Paul,

I see this as less about male privilege (although being short and female has its disadvantages when one wants to seem threatening) than about the fact that these were not Students but My Students. I couldn't just up and all of a sudden be the sort of teacher I wasn't all semester, the sort who'd go nuts about 30 seconds here and there. The Proctor is quite different than the teacher proctoring an in-class exam, I think.

Withywindle said...

I once gently pulled a paper from a student in mid-sentence. The gentleness, perhaps, keeps you from being That Nuts Teacher?

Phoebe said...

Withywindle,

This only had to happen once?

Nick said...

um, in law school they make it clear that typing beyond the time when the exam is finished (we type then submit via web) is academic dishonesty and will be treated as such. it's essentially an unfair advantage over peers who chose to comply with the rules.

I say make it clear up front and then "zero" the mother-fu**ers. there's no excuse for that sort of behavior.

Phoebe said...

OK, I think the problem here is no one's imagining the relatively laid-back atmosphere of a language class. It's not an SAT, it's not an impersonal lecture-class exam. It's not unusual for a teacher to stay an extra five (or fifteen) minutes to finish up - which can, I know from past experience, be a pain if you need to use the room, and the teacher before you is feeling particularly generous. But a bit of flexibility does not imply camping out all night for students who do not officially need extra time. I guess what I'm wondering, then, is if there's a way to maintain some flexibility, while at the same time being able to say at a certain point, enough's enough, and collect. Or maybe there's not, and I'd better just go the law-school route for this.

Matt said...

The whole idea seems pretty shocking to me- I've never seen it nor can I imagine doing it. Certainly, at the least, I'd not count the last several lines written.

I should say that it drove me nuts when I was teaching when the class in front of me wouldn't leave. I'd usually give them most of the break between classes and then just knock on the door and go in. My class was as important as theirs, and if they needed to keep talking they should do it in the hall, it seemed to me. (It drove me crazy as a student, too, when professors went beyond their time, as I often had classes back-to-back and so needed to go to the next one.)

Phoebe said...

Matt,

I think you just inadvertently answered the question! See, in this instance, there was not another class coming in after. But! There were, in theory, students with another class/exam after this one (unlikely given the time, but anyhow), who had to leave at the set time. So, I could have announced that, to be fair to these theoretical students, everyone had to leave with time enough to get to a theoretical next class.

Anonymous said...

Play really loud obnoxious music when time is up?

PG said...

I have had a class where I failed because I did not turn in the assignment on which my grade depended on time. It was for a seminar, not a lecture. Such an experience, while very unpleasant at the time, can correct the past bad training of the Nice Teachers who let the student get away with late work. In the long run, you aren't doing them a favor by letting them cheat. It sets up bad behavior patterns for the future.

Phoebe said...

PG,

I'd have a tough time defining the behavior I describe as "cheating" - there's enough that definitively is that one must constantly check for (use of translation websites and French dorm-mates to write essays, say) that to consider every student who pleas for an extra five minutes a cheater might go a bit far. But I agree with the essence of your point. I think the answer this coming semester will be to hand out a one-page list of acceptable classroom and assignment-related behavior, so that there's a document to point to (other than the syllabus, which ostensibly the students have all read, but which is more than one page and thus, apparently, requiring reinforcement) when things like this arise.