Opinion: Teachers should utilize final projects to evaluate students

Our Position: LT should transition into final projects, instead of outdated final exams, in order to sustain their students’ mental health.

After months of continuous learning, students have to take hours of tests before they are rewarded a well-deserved break.  Final exams are more a test of how much stress a student can handle than how much information they have obtained from the semester, and it is time to finally change.  If teachers instead tested their students’ knowledge through a final project, more students would be able to demonstrate mastery.  

Final exams are outdated and put pressure on all students, whether it is a certain score they need to achieve, a grade they need to keep or just a class they need to pass.  Many students either study for five  minutes or five hours depending on how much it will really affect their grade.  Because of LT’s new no-harm policy regarding finals, for many students they are just a waste of time, and for others the 20% can make or break their grade.  Not only are they stressful, but final exams are not a good technique for evaluating students.  In the real world it is more likely that students will show their knowledge through the use of their skills rather than a test.

With depression and anxiety rates already rising amongst teenagers today, it is unreasonable to ask them to study five months of material for each class and expect them to succeed with both a good grade and a healthy mental state.  Nearly one in three teenagers ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health.  One major factor is the pressure to succeed, especially in their education. 

In a survey conducted by Higher Education Resource in 2000, 28% of incoming college freshmen said they were overwhelmed by all they have to do.  In 2016 that number rose to 41%.  Stress can act as a positive, encouraging students to study and prepare. However, an abundance of stress can cause a student to think more about their grade—and the aftermath of it—rather than the test material itself.  One test is not enough to show how much a student has learned and grown through a semester, and is not an indicator of what the student achieved.  

As the world around us is evolving, why should testing stay the same?  If teachers transitioned into utilizing a final project instead of a test, this would greatly improve students’ grades, their mental health and make finals do what tests cannot.  By using a final project, teachers can still test the knowledge their students have obtained throughout the semester without giving them hours of studying.  Projects also give students more time to do the best work they can, without running against a clock.  Besides, tests are already given multiple times in many classes throughout the semester and having to do all the studying and work again in one sitting is both draining and miserable. 

Teachers could grade based on how well the project was executed, how well it shows the student’s ability to understand topics and the effort put into the project.  This will still let the final project have the importance of a final test but takes away the stress of testing.  The revised finals could still count for 20% of students’ grade and thus they do not lose their importance but teach valuable lessons.  As teenagers evolve, it is important that their education does too.  It has been time to change for a while, so let’s start.