A policy that mandates classes take finals during a set time has not been followed by everyone.
The university’s finals policy states that “no final examination be given prior to the scheduled examination period, and that students be given their examinations at the designated times.” Chancellor Rita Cheng said this is because the university is required to have such a policy in order to gain accreditation, but some university instructors said the choice of when to give a final should be at the professor’s discretion.
“The policy is one that every institution that I have been associated with has in order to ensure that a full semester of learning is taking place and that students are not unduly stressed by final exams in some courses scheduled during times when other classes are still in session,” she said.
Rod Sievers, university spokesman, said the policy has been in place for many years and was also created to benefit students.
“Holding exams at the scheduled times gives students ample time to prepare and seeks to avoid conflicts with other scheduled classes,” he said. “Final projects that are assigned to be completed outside the classroom are, of course, not subjected to the policy.”
Provost John Nicklow said in a Daily Egyptian article in January that he wanted to emphasize the policy to help lower students’ stress levels. He also said sources show a cumulative final during a set period such as finals week correlates to better student learning.
However, with varying course materials and teaching styles, some instructors said they think the timing and the format of a final exam should be left up to them.
“Having a standard final exam during finals week is not and should not be a university requirement,” said Gray Whaley, an associate professor of history. “I have at times deemed it appropriate for a given class to do a take-home version. Other classes that I teach are reading and research seminars in which students write papers instead of taking exams.”
Jonathan Bean, a professor of history, has been at SIU since 1995 and said there were often complaints to the administration about professors not following the final exam schedule. Therefore, a policy was implemented with prescribed times.
“Many professors chose the option of moving the final to the last week of class, giving a take-home-final due at a different date, etc.,” he said. “I think professors need flexibility, but they should also let students plan their semesters with the knowledge of when certain assignments are due. If the professor does not believe in finals, or the course is not appropriate for a final exam, then he or she will tell the students early in the semester and on the syllabus.”
Although professors are required to give finals at a certain time, the final exam is not always comprehensive. Frank Anderson, an associate professor of zoology, said he is not having comprehensive final exams for either of the two courses he is teaching. Instead, he has had the last test for the classes during the final time, because those tests already cover a lot of information in the course.
“I think the format of the final depends on the class,” Anderson said.w “There are a lot of classes that wouldn’t benefit from a final at all.”
Some students echoed the same thoughts as professors on the final exam policy.
“The best format for finals largely depends on the class,” said Max Reczek, a senior from Morton Grove studying cinema. “This should without a doubt be a decision on the part of the instructor and not a half-thought-out administration determination designed to blanket each and every course. It’s a bit ridiculous to have professors ask students to wait until the end of finals week to take exams or turn in projects, simply on the basis of scheduling.”
The policy also states there shall be no tests administered the week before finals. Nicklow’s memo from the Janaury article states that tests during the last week of classes are likely to interfere with students’ other obligations.
But Reczek said he did have an exam the week before finals. He said he had projects due during finals week but had no final exams.
“I find that this made my finals week significantly less stressful, as I was able to pace myself with regard to each class over the course of two weeks,” he said.
Brenna Shea Coyle, a senior from Tinley Park studying radio and television, said one of her marketing classes did a final project a few weeks before the semester was over, and was used as the final grade, so students are not required to attend the scheduled final exam period.
“The course was a sales class, so a test would not have shown your knowledge and skill in selling something, so a final project was appropriate for a final,” she said.
While SIU’s policy is specific to the university, some other institutions have similar rules several professors said they don’t follow.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville finals’ policy states, “All final examinations are to be given at the time and place indicated in the schedule prepared by the Office of the Registrar.” The policy does not state tests cannot be given the week before finals.
“I had one final — Issues in Feminism — that was given to us a week before the scheduled final date,” said Jenna Daniels, an SIUE junior from Shelbyville studying criminal justice. “We had the whole week to do it and once we finished, we just emailed it to the professor. We didn’t have to show up for the scheduled final time during finals week.”
Emily Abolt, an SIUE junior from Ft. Madison, Iowa studying nursing, said taking finals early made finals week less stressful.
“I took early finals in nutrition and in sociology,” she said. “In sociology I had a group project, and in nutrition I had an online final. I like the online final the best, because it was less stressful and I could take it whenever I wanted.”
Scott Walus, a professor of communication studies at Eastern Illinois University, said the classes have to meet at a specific time, but only one of his classes actually has a final exam.
“I tend to favor semester-long projects, portfolios and synthesis papers,” he said. “I think it’s important to standardize expectations for students in regard to final exam schedules. While I do not have an exam during these periods where I collect projects or media, I still use these class periods to reflect upon the semester, to present research and to screen videos.”