Extra time for tests

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Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:39 am UTC

I teach at a community college. I was surprised to find out that a lot of my co-workers have no problem with letting their students stay in their classroom, past the scheduled ending time of the class, to finish a test. That seems unfair to me. Students might have other places to be after class, like another class, a job, or a doctor's appointment. Even if they don't have to be somewhere at a specific time, they might have been planning to do something after class, like buy groceries, do laundry, or whatever.

Let's say a class is scheduled for 12:30 to 2:30. Let's say Student X is in this class, taking a test, and he has to leave the room at 2:30, because he has another class at 2:45. Let's say Student Y is also in this class, taking the same test at the same time. Student Y doesn't have to be anywhere immediately after class, but he has to be at work at 5 pm. The teacher announces that everyone has the option of staying past 2:30 to finish the test. The teacher has now effectively given Student X a time limit of about 2 hours, and he has effectively given Student Y a time limit of about 4 1/2 hours. Isn't that unfair?

To those of you in this forum who are teachers, do you do this?

By the way, I'm specifically talking about schools that have a looser schedule. In some schools, the schedules are stricter. For example, when I was in high school, the schedule was something like this: every student had a class from 8:00 to 8:55, every student had a second class from 9:00 to 9:55, every student had a third class from 10:00 to 10:55, and so on. The bells would ring to indicate the start and end of each class. So, at my high school, this issue never really came up.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:39 pm UTC

I don't think it's unfair as long as the test is designed to be completed in the allotted time of 2 hours.

Also, you can't really factor in student schedules. What if the teacher assigns an essay due next class (24 hours later)? Some students may effectively have half the waking hours to work on it than others have due to their personal schedules. Is that unfair?

Finally, if it's important enough Student X still has the choice of missing part of his next class.

EDIT: To clarify, I mean "unfair" as in "wrong". "Fair" is a very loosely defined term here. If the teacher has two class periods, and halfway through the first class a student points out a miswording on the exam that has caused many of the students to have been confused about a question, is it unfair for the professor to announce the correction at the very start of the second class? I don't think this is unfair as in "wrong", but clearly the second class has an advantage.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Dopefish » Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:28 pm UTC

I think it'd depend on the nature of the test.

If it's something particularly factual/mechanical ("Calculate this quantity", "When did this event occur?"), the benefit of additional time is quite limited as if the student couldn't get the answer within the allotted time, they probably won't be able to get it in any amount of time, so there's not a significant advantage to students who stick around. In this case, I'm all for letting people finish up, as it's often students who do know what they're doing but just might be slow writing (or the test was really better suited for a 2 hour + 5 minute period since profs tend to underestimate these things).

On the other hand, things that require more creative thought (proofs, mini-essays), tend to benefit quite a bit in the quality given extra time, which could be somewhat unfair to students who can't afford to stick around. Here an enforced time limit is probably better, as everyone is stuck with their first thoughts on the matter, and unlike the more computational problems, the thoughts are much more likely to change as more things are considered.

Having said that, 2 1/2 extra hours is a bit much regardless. An extra 15 minutes is plenty if the test was accurately designed for 2 hours and should be enough to let students finish up those last few things and not penalise the slow writers, but an extra 2 hours is just prolonging the suffering of those who don't actually know how to do the problems (but don't want to admit defeat by handing it in), and quite probably putting those who left immediately at an unfair disadvantage.

(Also, if after the time is up and the majority of the class is still writing [i.e. the test was too long], I'd encourage the teacher to just end it and just scale things, rather then let people finish, since in that case there will inevitably be people who know their stuff who also couldn't hang around who'd be screwed.)
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:29 am UTC

Also, you can't really factor in student schedules. What if the teacher assigns an essay due next class (24 hours later)? Some students may effectively have half the waking hours to work on it than others have due to their personal schedules. Is that unfair?

Isn't that a completely different issue? I was talking about tests done during class time, not homework assignments.
Finally, if it's important enough Student X still has the choice of missing part of his next class.
That's interesting. You don't see a problem with a students missing part of another class? He could be missing an important topic in the other class's lecture, or he could be missing time for a test in that other class. And it can be disrespectful to the teacher to walk into a class late. There are also classes where attendance and participation are mandatory, and arriving late will negatively affects a student's grade.

That can be a tough decision for a student to make: "Do I finish this test and miss important things in my next class? Or do I turn in my test now and get to my next class on time?" If you simply cut everyone off at the class's scheduled ending time, you don't force them to make this decision.

Dopefish, you brought up an issue which is very closely related: how do we determine whether a test is too long? The amount that students complete is an indicator of this. For example, if your class period ends at 2:30, and every student in the class is still working on the test at 2:30, then I'd say that the test is too long. I think that if a teacher always allows extra time, then they lose sight of the length of their tests, and they don't realize when their tests are too long.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Dopefish » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:27 pm UTC

At the university level, I'd probably have a TA write the test before giving it to students, and then add half an hour to that time to account for the fact that TA's are probably more advanced than the students and so would be able to figure out problems faster (and/or have seen them before). This also allows feedback towards the difficulty of the questions from the perspective of someone who didn't make up the questions, so if things do turn out to be to long, you can have some guidelines on what to cut. (Not to mention if you wrote the questions without doing them out yourself, you might discover you put some questions that have no closed form solutions making the later questions that rely on those results basicly impossible, as happened in a ACM course I took.)

At the high school (or lower) level, timing how long it takes to write the test yourself is probably the most practical thing available, but I'd probably want to be even more generous with the time added on top for students ability. If you have a 2 hour period, and it takes you 2 hours to finish yourself, then it's (much) too long, as opposed to perfect as some naive teachers might think. This of course gets to to the point that gauging a tests length is something that would come from experience. Your first few years of teaching you may have to cut things off and scale things because it was too long, but for future classes you should have a better feel for how long things take, or even simply converge on a suitable length test by recycling old tests and just cutting out problems.

And of course, don't forget student feedback! The next class after the test has been written you can ask the class whether they thought it was a fair length to get some idea, and while there may be some who think it should always be shorter no matter how short, most would probably give a reasonable response.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:33 am UTC

Thanks for your input. I like your idea of getting feedback from students and TAs.

I'd like to hear more from rigwarl. I'd especially like to hear his thoughts on making students miss part of their next class, which I mentioned before. Or, I'd like to hear from other teachers who give their students extra time on tests. I know of four of my co-workers who do this, so I get the impression that it's a fairly common thing to do, and there must be other teachers on this forum who do it.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Mon Sep 19, 2011 9:24 pm UTC

I'm kind of caught up on the definition of "fair". The way I see it, just because it's "unfair" doesn't mean you shouldn't do it- see the EDIT in my previous post for a good example.

Anyway, I don't really see how homework is a "completely different issue". Let's say my mother has passed away and I want to attend her funeral 4 hours away driving. I'm not going to have nearly as much time to work on that 1-day assignment than my roommate. Is that unfair? Yes, no? If we were to not consider factors external from the college, what if I had to be in the lab for a work-study for the next 6 hours after class?

(I used a funeral because that's something most people will excuse, but perhaps I had won a trip to Hawaii in the lottery, or I'm a finalist in some Olympics-level competition. I sure as hell am not passing that up so I don't miss class.) Would it be accurate to say that there is some situation where Student X essentially has 2 hours to work on a homework assignment, and Student Y has 10 hours? How is this different than the test situation?

In summary: Regardless of whether you agree with the homework analogy, I don't think it's wrong (although, linguistically, you could say it's "unfair") to give students extra time, as long as the test is reasonably long. If, as you mentioned earlier, nearly all the students are still working at the end of the class period, then that's an entirely different problem in that the test is too long.

Of course, the easiest (and most fair) thing to do would just to make it clear you collect tests exactly at the end class time with no exceptions.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Softfoot » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:08 pm UTC

I believe extra time should be negotiated. There are some students for whom extra time is appropriate - students with a specific learning difficulty/disability, for example a student with diagnosed dyslexia/dysgraphia in the presence of average-or-above IQ, or students who are sitting a test in a language in which they have limited proficiency. These kinds of accommodations should be negotiated and documented, prior to the test.
Same as word limits. It frustrated me when some of my lecturers had no problem with students going thousands of words over the word limit, when those of us who kept to the limits obviously didn't cover the same level of detail. *sigh*.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby D.B. » Sat Sep 24, 2011 11:31 am UTC

My personal stance would be that the test ends at the time the test is meant to end, for everybody (save for those have already negotiated extra time). For one thing it's nice and clear. For another on the issue of fairness it seems the safest best - I can think of fewer ways giving all students the same amount of time might be considered unfair, than I can think of ways giving some students extra time outside that timetabled might be considered similarly.

That said, it depends on the environment you're working in. If all your coworkers openly do it, and students have come to expect it, then having one class where it suddenly doesn't apply could well be considered unfair.


rigwarl wrote:(I used a funeral because that's something most people will excuse, but perhaps I had won a trip to Hawaii in the lottery, or I'm a finalist in some Olympics-level competition. I sure as hell am not passing that up so I don't miss class.) Would it be accurate to say that there is some situation where Student X essentially has 2 hours to work on a homework assignment, and Student Y has 10 hours? How is this different than the test situation?

I must admit I don't find these additional examples all the convincing. I think there's a big difference between giving extra consideration to a student who has recently suffered a bereavement and someone who is going to Hawaii for a holiday. Specifically, the former is a reason one might under perform in a standard testing/homework situation that has been forced upon the student; and the latter is a neat extra option that has opened up for a student, that they can turn down if they wish.

Moreover, let's accept that due to unavoidable practicalities of scheduling classes some students do have less time to complete a homework than others (which I find quite easy to believe). What difference does that make? Why does it follow that in a situation where such a time disparity can be avoided, for zero cost, it's not worth bothering to do so?
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby navigatr85 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:46 am UTC

rigwarl wrote:Anyway, I don't really see how homework is a "completely different issue".
It's different because a test is a controlled environment, and homework is not. The teacher has control over when the test starts and when the test ends. I think D.B. put it well; for a test, the time disparity can be avoided, with very little effort. For homework, the time disparity can't be avoided easily.

rigwarl wrote:I don't think it's wrong (although, linguistically, you could say it's "unfair") to give students extra time, as long as the test is reasonably long.
That's interesting. You're saying that giving extra time is "unfair", but it's not "wrong." Or in other words, you're saying it's "unfair", but it's a good thing to do. Am I understanding you correctly? In what way is it a good thing to do? I suppose you could say that it's "good" in the sense that it's polite to the student to allow them to finish what they're doing, instead of taking the paper away from them. But I think fairness is more important than goodness or politeness in that situation.

Also, rigwarl, I would like to hear your thoughts on making students miss part of their next class. I would appreciate it if you could respond to what I said about that in my August 16th post.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:58 pm UTC

navigatr85 wrote:Also, rigwarl, I would like to hear your thoughts on making students miss part of their next class. I would appreciate it if you could respond to what I said about that in my August 16th post.


Sure thing- I briefly mentioned a funeral was an external factor while another class would be an internal factor, but I don't think the situation where I have a funeral to attend that starts immediately after the class is over is much different than another class. Either way, it's not something I want to miss- in most situations, the latter would be more easily skipped, even.

In summary, I don't believe there is a significant difference between Student Y who has a class immediately after or Student Z who has work immediately after. What's the difference? What if Student Z's job is at the university, does that change it?

navigatr85 wrote:That's interesting. You're saying that giving extra time is "unfair", but it's not "wrong." Or in other words, you're saying it's "unfair", but it's a good thing to do. Am I understanding you correctly?


Yes, consider the situation I mentioned earlier- copy pasted again here: If the teacher has two class periods, and halfway through the first class a student points out a miswording on the exam that has caused many of the students to have been confused about a question, is it unfair for the professor to announce the correction at the very start of the second class? This is another situation which is technically "unfair" in that the second class has an advantage, but I think it's a good thing for the professor to fix it for the 2nd class.

D.B. wrote:Why does it follow that in a situation where such a time disparity can be avoided, for zero cost, it's not worth bothering to do so?


Well it depends on your goals, but often tests are considered checks whether the student understands the material, not if the student can appropriately present it in X amount of time.

@navigatr85 again
Like I said earlier, if you are uncomfortable with the time disparity, I would suggest that you just make it clear that you take all tests at the end of class. Make sure you do it before the day of the test though, so that anyone who requires special consideration has time to discuss it with you. I would find very, very few people who could complain about that.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Vangor » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:21 am UTC

navigatr85 wrote:But I think fairness is more important than goodness or politeness in that situation.


Why is this? Were we in direct competition, fairness is important. Being we are not, equitability is important. Tests we tend to consider, ones where additional time may be given, are a measure of retained knowledge, not of the ability to access knowledge the fastest. Limits on tests are practical only to give an approximated amount of appropriate time for completion. Why is the limit set to X amount of minutes? Because this is what we approximate students to be able to answer based on how retrievable the information is/how much effort is required to solve and the number of items.

Let us consider a class is given a multiple-choice test with fifty items with a two hour time limit. One completes this in around fifteen minutes. Should the class be beholden to this mark? No. This is unreasonable and would not be a limit for practicality but for competition or spite. Is this unfair the rest of the class is able to use the two hours? Again, no. Why? Not because the two hours was agreed upon but because people are different in taking tests. Some retrieve information quick, reading a trigger word or two and checking for negation before circling a response, while others know the same information but retrieve slower, reading the whole question to assure understanding, eliminating obvious incorrect answers for assurance, and reviewing once all is done, and plenty more between including those with anxiety issues.

Such all centers around validity. For the test to be valid, the test has to measure what the test purports to measure. On short response tests, deducting points for penmanship when the test is meant to measure evaluative tools means the test is less valid. You may measure penmanship, and you may measure speed, but do not while claiming to measure narrative comprehension. This is why additional time on tests is fair.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby D.B. » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:10 pm UTC

It's interesting seeing different people's reactions to this. My initial stance was that of course allowing extra time was unfair, but I'm starting to get where rigwarl, etc are coming from a bit more.

Maybe my reaction comes to a degree from the type of tests I've been made to sit in the past. On reflection, quite a proportion of these actively use the time limit as a testing mechanism, rather than just a guideline as to how long something should take. For example, tests which you are not expected to be completed in the allotted time, and people are judged on the proportion they got correct; or ones which have two methods of getting to the answer, where one is obvious but slow to compute, and another which requires better understanding but is quick to compute, with only the quicker solution being feasibly completable in the time limit. Other people's comments above indicate that this has not been so much their experience though.

In summary, I don't believe there is a significant difference between Student Y who has a class immediately after or Student Z who has work immediately after. What's the difference? What if Student Z's job is at the university, does that change it?
Possibly it depends on what has been agreed when the student joined the school. Say I'm choosing where to study, and am told that at a particular institution I can take two courses I'm especially interested in. I think this is great, hand over the money, and start the term. Then I discover half way through that while in principle, yes, they can both be studied, in practise due to time table clashes I'm going to have less time to complete the necessary examinations than other people, and so possibly graduate with a lower grade than I might otherwise have. I think I'd be within my rights to feel annoyed that this important information was not communicated to me when I applied to the school. I don't see that as being the same as starting a course, taking on a job as well, and then discovering later that the job introduces a similar conflict of interest - I've still got a problem, but it's not due to the school failing to tell me something.

You may measure penmanship, and you may measure speed, but do not while claiming to measure narrative comprehension.

See, I'm not convinced of this. Penmanship as a formal evaluation of how "pretty" one's handwriting is certainly doesn't seem a useful thing to include, except for certain jobs. But overall legibility I think absolutely is, and to a degree I think it's impossible not to include it - if I physically cannot understand a single thing a student has written, how can I mark it?

Equally, speed can matter. Person A can correctly complete 6 questions on a topic in an hour, and person B only one, then I'd say this is a strong indicator that A better understands what is going on than B. It's a noisy one, true (the person who responded quickly may have just guessed and gotten lucky), but most tests are based on more than one question so this ought to average out. And it does introduce some systematic bias against people who like to check and re-check answer (but then again, if their checking doesn't result in catching enough mistakes to bump their score up, are they actually checking in a useful manner?). But it still gives an approximation of the maximum rate at which they can work, and that feels a useful quantity to me - naively* extending the above, it seems to indicate person A can do about 6 times the work of person B in the same time period, a detail lots of employers would be interested in.






*by which I mean I'm using some artistic license here. I don't actually believe that someone who gets 6 times the scores of another on a test is going to be a 6 times better employee :P
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Vangor » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

D.B. wrote:See, I'm not convinced of this. Penmanship as a formal evaluation of how "pretty" one's handwriting is certainly doesn't seem a useful thing to include, except for certain jobs. But overall legibility I think absolutely is, and to a degree I think it's impossible not to include it - if I physically cannot understand a single thing a student has written, how can I mark it?


We measure penmanship frequently due to sculpting our expectations and the comprehensibility of the work. Students with less legible/standard handwriting routinely score lower including when the evaluator is explicitly aware and reminded to not score penmanship. However, this is missing the point. You may measure penmanship. Do not measure penmanship when measuring something such as narrative comprehension, evaluation of economic systems, application of philosophical positions, and similar.

D.B. wrote:Person A can correctly complete 6 questions on a topic in an hour, and person B only one, then I'd say this is a strong indicator that A better understands what is going on than B.


Again, you may measure speed. What you do not do is measure speed when you want to measure comprehension. This is not to say other things are worthless or things may not be measured simultaneously. This is to say when you want to assess knowledge, you assess knowledge and not knowledge plus other things. While being able to successfully complete an assessment faster is an indicator for understanding, this is not a measure of understanding, this is a measure of speed and understanding.

The distinction seems minor except for diagnostic purposes and because degrees are measures of area knowledge, covering the whole of academia from early childhood till professional exams and such.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Ambermutt » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:57 am UTC

My high school teacher would schedule tests for 2 or 3 lessons (45 min each) and then give us the option of staying until she had to catch her bus. This meant going through lunch and 45 minutes more for a total of 6 hours. We did take her up on it a few times. However, if you couldn't finish in the original 3 hours, it meant that for the next 3, you would just be scribbling and bullshitting for more fractional points.

Since everyone had the same schedule, we could do that, but otherwise, no. It's not fair at all. It's bad enough to compete in grades with a group of people living in completely different situations without also making it unbalanced in the classroom.

(Even worse, the people who are already struggling: working a job, taking care of someone, double majoring, etc, are the ones who are less likely to have the extra time to spare. So that teacher will have a tendency to reward the people who already have it easiest, further trampling over the struggling students).

On a similar note, my physics teacher made the tests, worked them out, then quadrupled the time it took him to estimate how long it should take us.Then added half an hour or so anyway. (He then wandered around the room reading over people's shoulders and snickering, but that's a separate matter).
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Parsifal » Sat Oct 01, 2011 12:52 pm UTC

I don't agree with giving some students extra time. In fact, I'm in a class right now where the average is probably 70%, if that, and nearly no one in the class leaves early from a 50-minute exam. While the teacher will sometimes give a few extra minutes to the entire class, he is adamant about taking it up when time is called. Giving students who happen to not have a class next, even if it were possible, would seriously warp the grading curve. In fact, I think it would be bimodal with a lower mean for the section of the class that does need to leave on time.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Wed Oct 05, 2011 6:27 pm UTC

Parsifal, I don't think anyone here disagrees that "timed tests" where extra time would help the majority of students should not be extended, e.g., academic Olympiads, SAT, AP tests, multiplication tables, etc. To me, that seemed quite obvious (but very well may not be), so the discussion has focused on comprehension tests designed to be completed in the allotted time.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Sun Oct 16, 2011 12:02 am UTC

navigatr85 wrote:Also, rigwarl, I would like to hear your thoughts on making students miss part of their next class. I would appreciate it if you could respond to what I said about that in my August 16th post.
rigwarl wrote:Sure thing- I briefly mentioned a funeral...
You didn't really respond to me. Maybe there was some confusion because I've been accidentally posting under two different usernames, relative_entropy and navigatr85. I apologize if that caused some confusion. I didn't want you to respond about the differences between work, class, funerals, and so on. Earlier, you said:
rigwarl wrote:Finally, if it's important enough Student X still has the choice of missing part of his next class.
Then in my Aug 16th post, I was asking, do you really not see a problem with a student missing part of another class? That's what I wanted you to respond to.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Kizyr » Sun Oct 16, 2011 2:25 am UTC

If I can I may take someone up on it if I'm the student (though I haven't had a case where I've needed to since, oh, high school). But, I don't agree with the practice -- it really is giving certain students an unfair advantage because they happen to have certain schedule configurations.* Particularly now, since I usually have more of a time crunch than some others (due to going to class part-time and working full-time), it makes even less sense.

Also... I hold professors to what they put on a syllabus. If there's a last-minute assignment (like an essay that's due in 24 hours, or any major assignment that doesn't include a weekend between when it's assigned and when it's due,** or a last-minute change to an existing assignment) then I'll resist that and bring it up with the professor. But admittedly I wouldn't imagine doing the same in undergrad. And to date in my master's program, there's only been like two occasions where that's happened, and all my professors have been understanding of it.

Y'know, I'd probably make for a really mean TA now that I think about it. I don't think I'd be all that lenient. KF

* This doesn't count people who have some disability-related reason for needing extra time. I've no issue there.
** This doesn't count if it's on the syllabus. If I'm given the ability to plan ahead then I don't feel a right to complain.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:19 pm UTC

relative_entropy wrote:
navigatr85 wrote:Also, rigwarl, I would like to hear your thoughts on making students miss part of their next class. I would appreciate it if you could respond to what I said about that in my August 16th post.
rigwarl wrote:Sure thing- I briefly mentioned a funeral...
You didn't really respond to me. Maybe there was some confusion because I've been accidentally posting under two different usernames, relative_entropy and navigatr85. I apologize if that caused some confusion. I didn't want you to respond about the differences between work, class, funerals, and so on. Earlier, you said:
rigwarl wrote:Finally, if it's important enough Student X still has the choice of missing part of his next class.
Then in my Aug 16th post, I was asking, do you really not see a problem with a student missing part of another class? That's what I wanted you to respond to.


I understood that you were using 2 usernames and just reread my post, I felt like I answered that exact question I bolded but I'll try rehash everything more clearly:

You mentioned you didn't want comparisons, but I think that's probably the thing that wasn't understood in the previous post. I don't believe there is much of a difference between Student X who has class after and Student Y who has work after- so to directly answer your question, no, there is not a see a problem. Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you saying that there's a problem in Student X's case and not in Student Y's case? If so, I would disagree for reasons I've mentioned (the only difference I can think of is external vs internal, but again what if Student Y's job is at the college?) What if it is extremely critical Student Y can't miss a single moment of the job (I dunno, maybe a timed lab experiment at the college)? Do you still think missing class is a problem but missing work isn't?

I've been operating under some implied assumptions that I've mentioned but I'll spell out here too: the test is designed to be finished in the alotted time- the student isn't force to miss class, it would be their choice if they find out they want more time during the exam (if they have special needs, it's their responsibility to negotiate that beforehand.) So again, in summary, I don't see any problem with the aforementioned scenario. Hopefully this was clear =)
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:38 am UTC

You know, I'd have a stronger opinion, but I've yet to teach a class that actually had a test.

Frankly, I'm a big advocate of actually designing the test to take less time than the class length so that they're already technically getting that extra time. I.E. instead of the average test taker taking the full time, they would take slightly less, thus accounting for people who test slower.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:38 am UTC

rigwarl wrote:
relative_entropy wrote:
navigatr85 wrote:Also, rigwarl, I would like to hear your thoughts on making students miss part of their next class. I would appreciate it if you could respond to what I said about that in my August 16th post.
rigwarl wrote:Sure thing- I briefly mentioned a funeral...
You didn't really respond to me. Maybe there was some confusion because I've been accidentally posting under two different usernames, relative_entropy and navigatr85. I apologize if that caused some confusion. I didn't want you to respond about the differences between work, class, funerals, and so on. Earlier, you said:
rigwarl wrote:Finally, if it's important enough Student X still has the choice of missing part of his next class.
Then in my Aug 16th post, I was asking, do you really not see a problem with a student missing part of another class? That's what I wanted you to respond to.

I understood that you were using 2 usernames and just reread my post, I felt like I answered that exact question I bolded but I'll try rehash everything more clearly:

You mentioned you didn't want comparisons, but I think that's probably the thing that wasn't understood in the previous post. I don't believe there is much of a difference between Student X who has class after and Student Y who has work after- so to directly answer your question, no, there is not a see a problem. Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you saying that there's a problem in Student X's case and not in Student Y's case?

OK, you're misunderstanding me. I agree that there's no significant difference between missing class and missing work. I think people should avoid being late for class, and I also think people should avoid being late for work. A student should never be late to a class as a result of finishing up a test, and a student should never be late to work as a result of finishing up a test. In my first post, I just randomly chose class and work as two commitments that students might have. In my first post, the difference arose because of the the time of student X's next class, and the time that student Y had to be at work.

To clarify, let me give some variations on this situation. In all variations, let's say the class is scheduled from 12:30 to 2:30. Also, in all variations, let's say the teacher says "take as much time as you want to finish the test."

1) Student X's next class is at 2:45. Student Y doesn't have a class at 2:45; his next class is at 5:00. Student X effectively has about 2 hours, and Student Y has about 4 1/2 hours. I would say this is unfair.

2) Student X's next class is at 2:45. Student Y has to be at his job at 2:45. They both have a time limit of about 2 hours. I would say the test is essentially equal for these two students.

3) Student X's next class is at 2:45. Student Y has to be at his job at 5:00, but doesn't have anything scheduled between 2:30 and 5:00. Student X effectively has about 2 hours, and Student Y has about 4 1/2 hours. I would say this is unfair. (This is a repeat of the situation I described in my first post.)

rigwarl, you were saying that you see no significant difference between class and work. Also, you seemed to be saying that you don't see a problem with a student skipping part of his next class to finish a test. Would you say you also don't see a problem with a student being late to work, to finish a test? If so, why are these things not a problem?

I would say that both of these are a problem. When a teacher says "take as much time as you want", the teacher is, in a sense, encouraging some students to be late for their next class, or encouraging some students to be late for work. I don't think teachers should ever encourage that kind of behavior.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby rigwarl » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:47 pm UTC

Of course there are disadvantages of allowing extra time. As previously mentioned, the advantage is related to the fact that the majority of tests are considered checks whether the student understands some subject material, not if the student is capable of presenting all of it within exactly 2 hours.

Anyway, I think the crux of the disagreement is based on the fact that you keep using the word "unfair" as if it's an extremely negative adjective, whereas I believe unfair =/= bad. For a (hopefully) less controversial example, if the professor has two class periods, and halfway through the first class a student points out a miswording on the exam that has caused many of the students to have been confused about a question, I think the professor should 1) announce it at the start of the second class, rather than 2) just letting the second class be confused and announcing it halfway through, despite the fact that #2 is the most fair to the most number of students. Do you agree or disagree?
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:58 pm UTC

rigwarl wrote:Anyway, I think the crux of the disagreement is based on the fact that you keep using the word "unfair" as if it's an extremely negative adjective, whereas I believe unfair =/= bad. For a (hopefully) less controversial example, if the professor has two class periods, and halfway through the first class a student points out a miswording on the exam that has caused many of the students to have been confused about a question, I think the professor should 1) announce it at the start of the second class, rather than 2) just letting the second class be confused and announcing it halfway through, despite the fact that #2 is the most fair to the most number of students. Do you agree or disagree?


The professor should announce it right away for the second class. If the error is serious, she should probably also take it into account when evaluating the first class, and be more lenient on the marking of that particular question.
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:06 pm UTC

If an error was discovered, I would announce it to the second class, but then I would try to compensate for the unfairness. I've actually experienced this situation before. My 10:30 students pointed out that the wording of a question was confusing. I agreed, and I clarified it for my 12:30 class. But then, I grader the question very loosely for the 10:30 class, and strictly for the 12:30 class. (This is basically what LaserGuy said.) I felt that the loose grading somewhat made up for the confusion, and so the test became approximately fair between the two class sections.

On the other hand, if I had announced the mistake to the 12:30 class and then graded all the tests with an equal amount of strictness, then I would say that's unfair. (Unfair in a bad way. You said that "unfair" is not the same thing as "bad", but, to ne, unfairness is always bad. I can't think of any situations where unfairness is good.)
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby jmorgan3 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:37 am UTC

I have a related question. I took a test the other day which had a time limit, but you could start the test at pretty much any point in the day. You signed in at the start and signed out at the end. Apparently, another student made an honest mistake and took an extra 30 minutes on the test. How would you deal with this as a professor?

(Note: This is just for curiosity. I am thankfully not involved at all in the matter and I have no idea what the professor did about it.)

The best thing I can come up with is to deduct points proportionally (i.e. if you took an extra 25% time, you get your score multiplied by 4/5).
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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

jmorgan3 wrote:I have a related question. I took a test the other day which had a time limit, but you could start the test at pretty much any point in the day. You signed in at the start and signed out at the end. Apparently, another student made an honest mistake and took an extra 30 minutes on the test. How would you deal with this as a professor?

(Note: This is just for curiosity. I am thankfully not involved at all in the matter and I have no idea what the professor did about it.)

The best thing I can come up with is to deduct points proportionally (i.e. if you took an extra 25% time, you get your score multiplied by 4/5).


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Re: Extra time for tests

Postby relative_entropy » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:32 am UTC

I would like to hear more from rigwarl, Vangor, and others in this thread who are OK with giving extra time.

rigwarl, how would you respond to my previous post? Would you agree that the way I handled the situation (grading the 10:30 students loosely) made the situation fairer? If you were in this situation, would you announce the mistake to their second class, but then grade all students with equal strictness? And would you consider that to be "unfair but good"?

A question to everyone in this thread: Do you agree with rigwarl's statement that a teacher can do things that are unfair, but also good at the same time? If so, I would be interested in hearing more examples of actions that are "unfair but good", because I'm having trouble thinking of them. In my view, unfairness is always bad.

rigwarl wrote:the majority of tests are considered checks whether the student understands some subject material, not if the student is capable of presenting all of it within exactly 2 hours.
Vangor wrote:Again, you may measure speed. What you do not do is measure speed when you want to measure comprehension.
In response to both of these statements, I'd like to say that there's nothing wrong with a test that measures comprehension AND speed. In fact, I think every test in every course should measure comprehension and speed. As someone mentioned earlier in this thread, speed is relevant in the real world. For example, an employee who can get a task done faster is more valuable than a slow employee.

Also, I keep my tests short. Usually, every one of my students is done before the end of the class period. Or, I'll have one or two students still working at the end, and then I take the test paper away from them at the end. If the tests are short enough, then the test doesn't become a "race against the clock" for any of the students, and the issue of "measuring speed" becomes less important.

rigwarl and Vangor, have you considered the possibility that your tests are too long?
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