The Undergraduate Association’s Student Committee on Educational Policy should dedicate themselves to adding a new component to the End of Term academic regulations: requiring all assignments and midterms to be graded before finals. While numerous regulations currently dictate when subjects with final exams may have their last assignment due, and the Friday before the start of the reading period is declared the last test date, there are no requirements for when assignments and midterm exams must be returned by.
The absence of such a policy hinders undergraduates as they prepare for exams. Not having graded problem sets, papers, presentations, quizzes or labs means that students cannot learn from their mistakes or failings as they study for finals. This deprives them of feedback in their preparation for final exams that are often weighted towards material from the end of term.
While many classes recommend that students keep copies of their work precisely so they can study from their submissions as they are being graded, this is hardly an acceptable compromise. Especially for individual assignments without generic solutions, such as papers or presentations, there is no substitute for simply having the assignment returned. Studying for end of term examinations is best done with one’s work, so even quizzes and psets with posted solutions do not present an adequate resource for students.
SCEP should demand the faculty adopt a simple requirement: For subjects with final examinations, all midterm exams and assignments on material dealt with on the final exam must be returned before the beginning of the reading period.
This rule is fair to both instructors and students. It gives instructors at least six days from the last test date to the last day of classes to correct, grade, and return assignments and exams. It also still permits them to have lengthier assessments requiring more correction time due at the end of term, though they must then not cover the same material on their final exam. Students gain the invaluable benefit of having their full repertoire of work available to study for their exams. Of course, faculty and staff must have the same reasonable exceptions for medical or family emergencies that are provided to undergrads.
In brief, students can study more effectively and instructors are only restricted in what they can assign at the end of term by the speed of their grading. Students will learn the class material better and take more knowledge from their courses. It’s not a total win-win scenario, but it’s pretty close.
Finals at the Institute are demanding enough on their own. There is no reason that students should not have all of their work, in hand and graded, as they prepare for them.