EDITORIAL: Finals require creative dissemination
Employment of different academic methodologies would help students
Rutgers students — and college students around the nation — are near-universally enduring “finals season,” the highly stressful conclusion of the semester.
The Butler Collegian published several concerning statistics regarding college students and stress: 30% of students say they are stressed throughout the entirety of the semester, 89% of students attest to being stressed 2 to 4 times a semester and 34% say their stress negatively impacts their academic performance.
Pennsylvania State University’s Daily Collegian published information regarding stress and the dynamic it has with students during finals week. Jennifer Graham-Engeland, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, explained some of these impacts in the article.
“There are many ways in which stress can manifest [and] impair health and well-being … A common phenomenon is negative mood (anxiety, sadness, anger), which when prolonged by rumination can lead to exacerbated physiological stress responses,” Graham-England said.
The piece also asserted that projects and other collaborative works are superior methods to evaluate a student’s proficiency at the end of the semester than normal final exams, which are more regimented and individually based. These collaborative efforts also decrease negative stress in students.
Many at Rutgers can likely attest to the truth in those statements. Working with others eases the psychological pressure of finals for many, without making it too easy to be a valuable benchmark of evaluation. Collaboration also allows students to specialize in aspects of a project that they are more adept in, which leads to a superior final product.
Collaborative efforts are also great ways to prepare for the workforce. Seldom does a place of business not collaborate between departments, and employees with their peers. Learning how to work well with others helps prepare college students for the labor force, which is a major component of a college education.
Of course, not all classes are structured in a way that permits group projects. More mathematically based courses likely would not be able to conduct a group project, or a project at all. For those, group exams are an option.
For classes that absolutely must have to use individual final exams, collaborative efforts in preparation should be promoted and, ideally, administered by the class itself. For instance, in a computer science course that needs to evaluate a student's coding ability individually, instructors should create study groups, whether outside or in lieu of typical class time.
In reality, not every single course at Rutgers needs to enact a more collaborative examination process, but for those that can, and for those that believe it could aid both the mental health and interpersonal abilities of their students, these changes should be made.
Instructors should also create semester-long projects rather than one end of semester test. This will allow students to continually evaluate their success in a course, and make academic adjustments as needed, instead of having all of their evaluation done over one 3-hour period of filling in bubbles.
Considering that stress negatively impacts academic performance, the University should be invested in curbing that stress — it would make the school as a whole look better, after all, if students performed at a higher level. The University should help alleviate some of — obviously, not all — the individual autonomy of students.
Applying the changes outlined above would help, but expanding access to other resources, such as Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services (CAPS), would be another step in the right direction.
Students themselves can, of course, take precautions to avoid stress during finals. The main one would be to exercise diligence in studying. By reviewing notes, lectures and sources texts throughout the semester, rather than irresponsibly cramming at the last moment, students can feel more confident and less stressed.
Additionally, Rutgers has a “self-help” webpage that outlines some stress-reducing tactics students can deploy on their own time.
But the University cannot control how its students prepare. It can, though, exercise its authority and assure that the finals administered at this school are constructive and collaborative.
This is not to say that finals should be easy — they should not be by any metric, as this is an institution of higher education. Instead, Rutgers should make sure that it is not unnecessarily difficult — otherwise stated, not difficult in ways that do not promote student development.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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