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May 1, 2008

Seeking feedback on final format

Congrats to all on formally completing the course.  I am hoping to keep this class blog running so that I can continue to learn from you about all sorts of stuff.  And, right now, I especially want to encourage students to provide feedback on the final format. 

From my professor-biased perspective, the combined take-home/in-class format was the best of both worlds in light of my deep concerns with traditional in-class 1L exams.  I can imagine, however, that it might seem like the worst of both worlds from a student perspective.  Thus, I am eager to read comments about the format (and only the format) while it is still fresh in your mind.  (After I grade the exams and submit the class grades, I may then seek feedback on the content of the exam.)

Thanks in advance for feedback on the format (and feel free to post anon if that makes you feel more comfortable with criticisms).

May 1, 2008 in Debating the final | Permalink


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Hi! I guess I am the first to post here. I did very much like the grading format of the class, as it is not all about performance on one exam. I especially enjoyed writing the Hyle v. Porter paper. But I am confused about the percentage breakdowns. I think you said that the Hyle paper would be worth 40 percent. Is that 40 percent of the class, or of the final? Can you provide the breakdown? Thanks!

Posted by: anonymous | May 1, 2008 4:15:15 PM

Rough Expected Grading Breakdown:

Class participation/Mid-term = 25%
Question 1 of final = 45%
Question 2 of final = 22%
Question 3 of final = 8%

The exact percentages for each question of the final may move 1 or 2 points, but this is my current grading game-plan.

Make sense?

Posted by: Doug B. | May 1, 2008 4:38:18 PM

I felt like I was taking a legislation final for 3 days. It worked because we only had 2 cases. I would not have liked having both in class and take home if we had more to focus on.

Posted by: Alexandra | May 1, 2008 9:26:40 PM

Hi! I also liked the format of the final. I like how we had time to really think about the first question and did not have to rush into the writing. I also think the exam was fair--no big surprises, which was nice. And I did love the last question, though I had given much thought to the fireman/policeman question.

I do strongly believe that assessments should also be learning experiences. Most law school exams don’t teach me much beyond things like keep your eye on the clock and don’t heat up soup during an 8 hour take-home, even if you are hungry. I learned from taking the midterm paper and the essay question.

The longer I stay in law school, the harder I am finding writing answers in limited time chunks. I think it has to do with a lot of things—exhaustion, boredom, exasperation, to be sure—but also because as I learn more about the law and understand how classes connect, the more ways I can see going with an answer. I enjoy having time to wrestle with the issue and start writing a few different approaches before deciding which way to go with. I like being able to do some outside reading to broaden my perspective. And, quite frankly, I prefer my home to room 344 (or 348, in this case. I frankly prefer my home to Drinko Hall.)

Of course, there are also benefits to traditional, time-restrained exam, which your format allowed for. And I very much appreciate that you allowed us to reflect on the class in a thoughtful, constructive manner. Overall, I am big supporter of this exam format.

Posted by: stephanie | May 2, 2008 11:41:40 AM

Mid-term paper: difficult to know what you wanted from us...too open ended

Part I (take home) of Final: good...word limit could have been a bit longer

Part II (in class) of Final: good...I personally think an hour was an unrealistic "expectation" to finish it in...

Part III (in class) of Final: see mid-term paper comments...ad absurdum...

General comments:

1) Focus on Hyle and Hayes made studying a easy and simple; and in response to what I perceived to be constant bitching by everyone in the class regarding unknown expectations, you couldn't have made your expectations on Parts I and II more clear or fair...kudos...

2) Short in class exam was well appreciated, especially in light of...

3) Biggest problem, see Alexandra's post supra, out of class paper combined with in class final makes for a long period of exam taking...giving the class 2 days to work on a paper means some of us actually will spend that much time on it...and then to top it off with an in class portion just seems to combine the worst of both worlds......

Posted by: anonymous | May 3, 2008 4:01:34 PM

Keep all these great comments coming! I REALLY appreciate (and largely agree with) everything that's been said, including the vagueness/uncertainty of mid-term paper and Q3 on the exam.

Importantly, the two vague "assignments" combined will constitute, roughly speaking, only about 25% of the final grade (and less for those who did the optional oral defense and/or contributed in class and/or on the blog). Also, I think anyone who was seriously attentive to my suggestions/instructions about "whoville" likely did pretty well on these vague "assignments."

I say all this not to be especially defensive (though maybe I am being defensive) but to encourage all to reflect on whether the break-down of grading in your other classes (past, present and future) is more/less clear and fair and sensible in light of the goals and teaching of the course.

That all said, the last 2 comments have strayed a bit into substance and I want to try to keep this thread mostly focused on the FORMAT of the final. I can/will blog about the substance later.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 3, 2008 4:27:50 PM

I personally did not like having both a take home and an in class portion. As one who commutes to school (20-25 minutes each way), I would have preferred having just the take home part with an electronic submission.

Posted by: Sophia | May 3, 2008 5:34:45 PM

I'm behind Stephanie's response. My first reflections on the exam were that it was fair (with no tricks or surprises) and that it really gave us the best ability to give a well-rounded "performance" in the class, by giving different modes for performance and evaluation. I also appreciated knowing at least a component of our grade (the midterm/ participation) before the final grades were posted so we're able to evaluate how we're doing in demonstrating the knowledge we had concerning the class.

Posted by: Theresa | May 3, 2008 7:08:49 PM

As one who did not do terribly well on the midterm paper, I really appreciated the chance to figure out what was expected and what I had done wrong without having to sacrifice my entire grade to do so. Having the grade broken down into separate portions was a very nice change from all of our other classes, although I agree that having both a take-home and an in-class final was really only manageable because of the narrow scope of information we needed to learn.

Posted by: Erin H. | May 4, 2008 12:30:46 PM

"Importantly, the two vague "assignments" combined will constitute, roughly speaking, only about 25% of the final grade (and less for those who did the optional oral defense and/or contributed in class and/or on the blog)."

Am I correct in thinking the two vague assignments referred to are the midterm paper and the "rate this class format" question on the final? Does this mean that question III is not really going to count for the independent 8% now?

As for the participation grade, is it correct to assume if one did all three reasonably well it's worth the exact same as one who only did the paper or participation or blogging well? Wouldn't that (if the expectation of this had actually been made clear ahead of time) create a disincentive to doing all three?

Does the grading stay "flexible" until final grades are submitted or will it be set in stone before anonymity is breached?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 4, 2008 5:55:52 PM

I took it to mean that (from what was recently posted), participation/midterm paper was 25 percent and Question 3 was 8 percent. That is a total of 33 percent. I took it to mean Question 3 is worth 8 percent, midterm paper is worth 17 percent, and class participation is also worth 8 percent.

Question about the format. Will each component be curved independently? I think that the class participation grades will be pretty close--meaning that doing really well in class participation or on the midterm paper won't help you that much if you did poorly on the Hyle or Hayes question.

I see Prof. Berman wants us to focus on format, but my question about the curve and the various components affects how I feel about the format.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 4, 2008 9:25:59 PM

Since requested, here are more grading clarifications:

1. I explained in February (on the blog and in class) how the mid-term paper and the overall class participation grade would work: "The mid-term paper will not be blind graded, and it will be combined (in a student-beneficial way) with my grading of class participation ("CP") to comprise 25% of the total class grade. Students who do well on the paper, but poorly on other aspects of class engagement, will have roughly 20% of the 25% CP grade come from the paper. Student who do less well on the paper, but better on other aspects of class engagement, will have roughly 10% of the 25% CP grade come from the paper."

2. In other words, the mid-term paper and Q3 of the final could be worth as little as 18% or as much as 28% of the overall grade in the class (and that assumes Q3 retains its 8% worth: it will go down in overall worth if Q2 proves to be effective and I decide to give it 1 or 2 more percentage points in the overall grading scheme).

3. I give RAWscores to each component of the class/exam. The CP component is graded on a RAW scale of 0 to 10, and the raw numbering of the other question varies dramatically. I then submit all the raw scores (with question-weighting instructions) to the grading computer program that does a lot of complicated standard-deviation analysis to refine my raw scores and produce a final set of curved total scores. The curved total scores then get "plotted" on the Moritz 100-point final grading scale.

4. I get a look/input at the final plotting of the curved total scores on the Moritz 100-point final grading scale(which I do still blinded looking at only exam #). I often try to bump up the final grades as much as the associate dean lets me, especially in an effort to ensure that relatively similar curved total scores (i.e., curved total scores that are only a few points different) get the same grades.

5. I am happy --- indeed, eager --- to discuss the exam grading process in even more detail if folks are interested. I strongly believe that the Moritz grading system is VERY throughtful and fair, but also opaque in ways that can prompt lots of questions and uncertainty even though I have nothing to hide.

6. Lastly, it is worth noting that the class participation grades are spread pretty well. They range from 4 to 10, and that's the equivalent of a range in a 100-point scale between 40 and 100. Needless to say, I expect that the final grades will be packed much closer that that.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 5, 2008 10:46:47 AM

I thought the in-class portion was unnecessary. All three questions should have been part of the take-home, either with or without a time limit. I just don't see what purpose the in-class part of the exam served other than force me to use the esoteric exam software rather than a normal word-processing program.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 6:15:03 PM

What? You don't like the "esoteric exam software" that reverts you back to the word processing days of type-writers?

Posted by: anonymous | May 12, 2008 12:48:01 PM

I appreciated the exam format because I think it was a good way for people to showcase their talents. Some people do well writing papers while others are better at generating a well thought out answer in a short period of time. I also think that for people who speak well and are comfortable with that, they had the opportunity to showcase those talents as well. Personally I wish that more professors would approach testing students in a similar manner. I would agree that it did seem like we were taking a legislation exam for a few days, but I don't think that it was that intense that it made much difference in how we would have been studying for the final. So, I guess that's all. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Posted by: anonymous | May 15, 2008 9:43:43 PM

Any timeline as to when we might see grades released, Prof. Berman?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2008 3:49:32 PM

Grades should be completed/released this coming week!

Posted by: Doug B. | May 18, 2008 2:26:23 PM

Great news! We all await with anticipation of joy or heartache.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2008 12:36:48 AM

A good place to start to beef up your home security would be locking your doors and windows even when you're at home. Then put a sign in your front yard that warns of a vicious guard dog. You'd be amazed at how effective that is and you don't even need to dog.

Posted by: vigilon | Jan 7, 2011 7:25:59 AM

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