Not your typical scantron

Suzi Starheim

Professors find alternatives to traditional exams

With the excitement of winter break approaching, there comes a not-so-exciting reality all students have to face: finals week. And while most students view finals as a week of bubble sheets and memorizing class notes, this scenario is not the case for students in certain classes.

Freshman architecture major Brian Grafton is one student taking a not-so-traditional final exam this semester.

Grafton’s architecture section is working on a final that is more realistic than the 2-D and 3-D abstract models the students have worked on during the semester.

“(I have) to make a building and have it interact with a cliff that is in the landscape of the building’s footprint,” Grafton said.

Grafton said he sees the benefit of final projects in a studio setting.

“We basically learn through experience in studio,” he said. “The more we do, the more we know.”

Lauren Frey, adjunct professor of architecture, is one of the professors in the first-year architecture studio. She, like many of her students, feels a final project is very beneficial to students in this major.

“For architecture students, a final project is the ideal way to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the semester,” Frey said. “Rather than being tested to regurgitate information, these students work for a week or sometimes two weeks straight with limited or no sleep to prepare a presentation that can almost speak for itself.”

Freshman exploratory major Rachel Cadesky has already taken the first section of her final in her art class, and it was not a written exam either. The final began with her professor providing each member of the class with brown paper bags and paper to do their final drawings on. Each student in the class had to choose three food items to draw and bring in their own lamp to add a more dramatic effect to the final drawing.

“I like this type of final because it utilizes everything in the class,” Cadesky said. “We also have more time to work and have the instructor there to get input.”

Cadesky said there is some worry that comes with a final project.

“How well you do can come down to whether you have a good day or a bad day when you work on the final in class,” she said.

Students in other majors, such as photo illustration, are also taking nontraditional exams. Junior photo illustration major Dan Mosora said for his introduction to typography class he had to turn in a booklet about a graphic designer. He said he feels final projects are harder to complete than typical final exams.

“With a written exam, there is a right and wrong answer,” Mosora said. “And with a final project, there isn’t necessarily one.”

So while the season of finals may be associated with stress and sleep deprivation, all students are not memorizing facts from a textbook; many are working long hours putting together their final projects and are not quite as concerned with the “regurgitation” of facts many students experience in taking final exams.

Contact features correspondent Suzi Starheim at [email protected].