As the semester wraps up and panic about finals ensues, I find myself reflecting on the purpose of all those long hours I spent studying earlier material for midterm assessments.
As an exchange student, midterms were a foreign concept to me. In the education system I had been used to, results rested on papers or exams worth 40% or 50% of the module. Moreover, these assessments weren't conducted until much later in the academic year. So, with quizzes and deadlines thrust upon throughout this semester I began to wonder: is assessing students earlier a more effective way to achieve academic success?
The first response from a student perspective would be a firm no. As a Political Science major my weeks already faced an average of 200 pages of reading a week. When I first arrived the thought of maintaining this, while revising material for exams or writing papers was not in the slightest bit appealing. I am not the only one who thought this. Social Studies teacher, Dawn Casey-Rowe, argued that she thinks midterms place students under an unnecessarily “high anxiety environment”. She explained how under increased time pressure students often turn to cramming information to only regurgitate it the next day before it is lost, effectively wasting time that could’ve been used teaching material. All of these indicators tend to paint an unpleasant picture for a student’s mental health. Increased workload, high pressure assessment and a lack of time are all factors that put a student on a path to burning out.
Yet, as I reflect on my University experience back in the U.K, I soon realise that this doesn't have to be the case.
If we stop to think about it, midterms actually decrease the amount of stress in our lives. I anticipate many to roll their eyes and stop reading now, but bear with me. Midterm assessment allow assignments to be weighted at a lower percentage. At UBCO, I have papers and exams in this period worth 10% or 20%, compared to back home where the lowest percentage of a paper I had was double this. At the end of the day students are human; we make mistakes and submit work that isn't always to our best. This doesn’t mean we aren't working as hard as we should be; it’s a natural stage of learning.
Smaller weighted assignments should be viewed as more beneficial to this process, despite appearing as a chore at the time. As we reach the end of the semester, and I prepare myself for finals, I’ll admit that my thinking has altered. Midterms are put in place to get results, they aren't supposed to be the enemy.