July 13, 2004

The end of the highly concentrated summer semester.

You may have noticed that my Monday through Thursday blogging has been a little slow these last five weeks. I've been teaching Constitutional Law I compressed into five weeks of classes, as compared to the fourteen weeks of a Spring or Fall semester. It's one thing to say, yeah, I can do that, but the view from this side of the experience is quite different. It's exhausting! I don't feel tired during class, but I just can't find much energy outside of class. Tomorrow is the last class, and the exam is Thursday. I got the exam written yesterday, then I woke up this morning, and immediately thought, no, that exam is too hard. It was hard in a way that made me think a person might get nervous trying to get a foothold, then panic and lose the ability to think of anything. That's not what you want. Exams grades are curved here at the Law School, so the grade distribution is going to be the same whether the exam is easy or hard. But if an exam is extremely hard (or extremely easy), the exam doesn't produce accurate grades. A very easy exam is actually the sort of exam a student who prepares well and studies hard is most harmed by, because students who did very little have an equal opportunity to figure out the answers, and might win the best grades on the curve simply by writing somewhat better or even by chance. An excessively hard exam should be less worrisome for the prepared student, but there is an obvious problem if you can't think of how to get started, especially if that leads to the kind of anxiety that blocks your thoughts altogether. That's something that occurred to me once in law school, and fortunately, I was able to calm down and get to an answer. I don't want to write an exam like that, and I woke up this morning thinking that I had. So it was back to square one, and I've just now managed to finish writing up the exam. I very much wanted to have it done before tomorrow's class so I can reveal a few things about the exam--e.g., the number of questions--which, I think, relieves some anxiety.

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