Final exams’ uncertain future

Virtual Haverford brings many challenges. Teachers and students alike struggle to find the rhythm of a “normal” school classroom. To overcome these obstacles, teachers search for effective means of assessing students’ understanding of course content.

     “I think as a community we’re going to have to rethink what we want to examine,” upper school math teacher Mr. Nathan Bridge said. “We have to change what it is we’re assessing students on.”

     This transition has created inconsistencies within the community. Some teachers are considering continuing to test their students with standard exams, while others have adapted to different methods better suited for online learning. These variations will likely continue.

     “As of right now, we do not have a firm decision [on testing],” Head of Upper School Mr. Patrick Andrén said. “But we are exploring a variety of scenarios based on what comes, and that is everything from what exams would be worth to what they even look like.”

     Figuring out how to effectively alter a sit-down exam for online classes is a major concern. 

     “At our core, we are an academic institution, and the foundation of an academic institution is academic honesty,” Mr. Andrén said. “What does that mean in terms of the Honor Code and assessments? It means that we as faculty are going to have to work to design assessments that don’t lend themselves to academic dishonesty.”

“At our core we are an academic institution, and the foundation of an academic institution is academic honesty,” Mr. Andrén said.

     As the teachers and administration work to modify a traditional Haverford education to accommodate the state’s stay-at-home order, many contemplate the residual effects of the pandemic on students’ education. 

     “I think it’s too complex to call the impact good or bad,” Mr. Bridge explained. “What I’m hoping is at the end of this there is something beneficial that comes from it in terms of the experience we have at Haverford. Students might come out of this eager to take learning into their own hands and become independent learners, and faculty can look at their classes and think how they can utilize asynchronous learning.”

      These mixed feelings remain prevalent throughout the community. Many embrace the modifications as  an exciting challenge. But with all the turmoil and uncertainty, certain classroom changes might present difficulties for students. Nevertheless, faculty remain positive and work to improve both their own classrooms but online learning as a whole.

     “We want to do what we feel is ultimately going to be best for [the students] and the school.” Mr. Andrén said. “We’re continuing to make this pivot and conceptualize what the best ways of assessing are. Those are the two things the faculty is talking about and working on.”

     Exams and the future of learning at Haverford may still be up in the air, but everyone can take comfort in knowing that teachers and administrators are working  behind the scenes to create the best virtual experience possible.

     Mr. Bridge said, “There is a large sentiment amongst the faculty that they’re fair to the students, that they are understood as legitimate, and that they are understood in terms of their positive intentions to help students grow as people and learners.”