Empowering Students Through Options in an Intro Undergraduate Course
– Meghan Davidson, Speech-Language-Hearing, University of Kansas
Last spring I taught an introductory language development course with about 40 students. After we switched to remote teaching, I did something I had never done before and gave students several options for completing their cumulative final exam. Students choose between a traditional, cumulative final exam and a mini-cumulative project plus module exam (students were tested only on content from the final module of the course).
If students chose the second option, they had further choices about the format of their mini-project: a brief workshop for parents, letter to a new parent, or brochure for a pediatrician’s office. All options focused on students explaining language development to someone unfamiliar with the content—parents—and were graded on the same criteria.
I provided options as a way to give students flexibility to work within their capacities at that time, and I thought that most students would choose the second (mini-cumulative project plus module exam). To my surprise, roughly 50% of students completed each option, and students varied in their choice of project format for the second option. Grades were comparable across the two options. I felt having options helped reduce students’ anxiety. I learned that providing options for the final exam empowered students to determine the best method for them to demonstrate their understanding of course content.