Alternative Finals Battle Traditional Stress


Vaughn Luthringer, Staff Writer

Final exams can conjure up pretty stressful thoughts. Remembering an entire semester’s worth of information isn’t any easy task, after all.

A few teachers are doing their part to minimize student stress by giving non-traditional finals, some of which include essays, group projects, and presentations. For example, this year, biology teacher Mrs. Jackman has transformed her final exam to benefit students and keep up with changing requirements. Her 2016-2017 first semester Biology final consists of three parts: a multiple choice test on topics covered so far this year, a group presentation that pulls from several units, and a short paragraph response.

“The reason I changed the final was primarily that I thought it would reduce student stress,” said Jackman. “That’s one of the big focuses at, not just at Campolindo, but our whole school district.” Jackman is also altering her testing method to meet new Common Core and science standards.

“I’m trying to make lessons that go with the next generation science standards,” Jackman stated.

So far this year, Jackman has been slipping bits of new Common Core material into her Biology students’ daily classwork. “The claim, evidence, justification format [promoted by Common Core] is something that I think promotes real, thoughtful learning, versus just memorizing a bunch of facts,” she said.

Jackman has had firsthand experience with the panic students experience before final exams. “I’m heavily influenced by the fact that I have had kids go to Campolindo,” she said. “My daughter cared a lot, and she worried so much, and her friend group was so intense, and they’d worry themselves into this frenzy. That helped change me.”

Freshman Madeline Landau agrees. “I think tests other than a final would be less stressful, because it doesn’t have the same scary name, and the same stressful thoughts,” said Landau. 

Jackman isn’t the only teacher that has taken a non-traditional path for their final. Teachers Jane Kelson, Lindsay Webb-Peploe, and Maria Cadenas have also veered away from the traditional testing method.

I don’t think students remember specific dates and times, for example from a two hundred multiple choice question final,” said history teacher Ms. Webb-Peploe, who teaches Modern World History and U. S. History. Instead of tests, she had students in both of her history courses compose an essay. Students selected a theme, and Webb-Peploe helped them earn a good grade by working with them throughout their essay-writing process.

I would rather them reflect on the themes that go throughout history, then have something that reflects that while practicing good writing,” she said. 

In her Biology classes, Jackman has also been veering away from basic tests, aside from finals, and having her students complete more group projects, in hopes that it will better their understanding of the material. “I think tests and quizzes never will disappear entirely, but I think most teachers are going to probably start giving you a variety of ways to show what you know.”