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exams, crib cards, etc.

Even though this is stale by now, I wanted to make a few comments.

1. During my undergraduate and graduate years (BS 1966, PHD much later),
the number of exams I had that allowed the use of _any_ kind of aid
(crib sheets, class notes, textbook, other books) could be counted on the
fingers of my hands. Most of the instructors I had expected their students
to get the course material into their heads and be able to use it without
constant reliance on reference stuff. (And it is my impression that most
of us actually were able to learn and use the course materials, not just
in physics but in all of my classes.)

2. Basically all of the exams I had in undergraduate and graduate
school had strict time limits. Even the few that allowed the use
of notes, books, etc., were timed. I can only remember _one_
take-home exam from all those years, and even that had a time limit
imposed after which we were supposed (on our honor) to stop working.

3. While deep down I don't like the use of crib sheets, I do allow
students to bring one to exams. When I first began teaching, I let
them use a sheet of notebook paper. I found that they were covering
the sheet with solved problems and then doing crude pattern-matching
to "solve" the exam problems, so I changed to a 3 X 5 (inch)
index card. There are rules about what can be on the card (the
most important one is 'No Problems'), and the card must be handed in
with the exam. Any inappropriate stuff on the card will result in a
small penalty on the exam score.

4. If I want students to work together on something, or work for
extended periods of time on difficult problems, I do that in the
context of homework or projects rather than exams. (Homework is
a significant part of the grade--usually 1 to 2 letters' worth--
in my physics classes.)

5. Last year we gave the ETS Major Field Test in Physics to a group
of our students. This was the first time the test had been used as
a major assessment tool. (It had been given once years ago when it
was first introduced.) After a few years of instruction with many
open book exams, 'formula' lists, etc., the performance of that group
as a whole was consistent with guessing at nearly all of the answers
on the test. (In fact, when I look at the nationwide statistics for
the ETS Physics Test, it seems that many students all over the country
are guessing at the answers.)

6. I have occasionally had students lecture me on what life is like
in the 'real world', in which (they claim) everybody looks up everything
in books and nobody commits anything to memory. I respond by noting
that while this may be true for some people, the individuals who become
truly successful tend to be ones who know their subject well enough that
they don't have to look up everything. I want my students to become
successful at doing physics, and for that reason I shall continue giving
closed-book, timed, individual exams.

Steve Luzader
Frostburg State University
Frostburg, MD