Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Test Anxiety (from the other side of the desk)

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Last Tuesday I gave my first exam. I’ve proctored plenty for others, but this was the first time giving an exam that I wrote. I put a lot of time into writing the questions and thinking about what I expected from the students. But I was not ready emotionally for it. In fact, I didn’t even think about the fact that I might have emotions about the exam.

After I handed it out to the students and they got started I realized that they were really stressed about it. They had a lot of pained expressions on their faces. I started to get anxious. As more time passed, I got more and more anxious. It was partly on their behalf, but not totally.

I expected at least a few students to finish the exam very quickly. It seems that there are always a few who blast through it. But they didn’t. The first student to finish did so about halfway through our class meeting. I had a moment of relief thinking he would start a chain of students finishing. But, no. Most others didn’t finish until there were only about ten or fifteen minutes left. When I said “time’s up” there were still about ten students in their chairs.

So this whole time I’m worrying about them not finishing and how I’ll handle that. I’m worrying about whether it’s too difficult and what they’ll think about it. And will they judge the entire course according to this exam? Will they judge my performance as an instructor according to this exam?

It was just a little too much to deal with. It was so unexpected.

The good news is that they did finish, and generally, they did very well. In hindsight, then, I think I succeeded in making the exam challenging but not impossible. And I am glad that they took it seriously and did not rush through it. They did report feeling like it was more difficult than they expected and that they felt a little rushed. So the next time around I might tweak things a bit, but I’m glad that I don’t have to start back at square one.

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Written by Lisa

February 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

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