A Different Kind of Final Exam

HarrisThe end of the year is fast approaching and thoughts start turning toward giving that final exam in your class. 

I used to give a traditional final exam with lots of content oriented questions but, frankly, if the students were successfully completing television programs by this time of the year, they had to have mastered the content so I realized that giving them that comprehensive exam was a waste of their time and took a whole lot of my time to grade.

My primary goal for the students was for them to become employable in the television production industry.  Again, their ability to produce programs at this time was a testament that they could do the job.  Their final videos would be part of a demo reel they’d take to the job interview.  But they would also need a resume. 

So my thought was to have them do a resume for a final exam grade.  On the resume they would list the activities that they had accomplished during the year.  I would end up with a document to justify an exam grade and they would end up with a useful tool in applying for a job.  I thought it was a perfect match.

I discovered that the students had not kept a record of all their production work during the year and were applying their creative writing skills on their resumes.   This certainly wasn’t what I wanted.  Moreover, it was a nightmare to try to grade!

So I started requiring that the students keep records from the beginning of the year.  They were given something I called a “log sheet.”  There were 5 days to the week so they each got 5 preprinted log sheets and at the end of the period each day they turned in their log.  Preprinted on the sheet was a list of all the activities they might have taken part in during the class period.  All they had to do was find the activity and then write in the number of minutes they spent doing that activity.  If they did any work outside of class, that time was placed on the log the next day they were in class.  Every Monday, I returned all 5 logs to the students and they totaled their numbers for “last week” in each of the categories.  Each student met with me for about 2 minutes on Monday and they gave me the totals for each activity last week.  I entered them into a database in Excel. 

The following is a partial list of the activities the students could engage in:  ENG, Scriptwriting/Proposals, Production Meeting, Location Survey, EFP Director, EFP Crew, Gathering Equipment, Talent, Set Construction/Strike, Grip, Studio Audio Mix, Studio Directing/TD, Studio Lighting Design, Studio Camera Operation, Floor Manager, Make-Up, CG Operator, Editing, Post-Production Audio, Duplication, Watch Show, Lecture (instructor/guest), Conference, Clean-up, Misc. jobs, Tutor other Students.

Throughout the year I could look at the database and see how much time Johnny was spending in any of the activities.  I could tell Excel to give me a class average for each activity as well.  This would allow me to compare Johnny with the rest of the class and urge him to get more time in ___ activity - that he was not keeping up with the rest of the class.  Or tell him to back off on being camera operator so much and pick up time running audio.  I wanted my students to be well rounded.

Then at the end of that two minute conference, I’d ask the student what grade he thought he deserved for his work output “last week.”  I was surprised at how hard the kids were on themselves.  Oftentimes, I would enter their weekly grade exactly as they gave it to me.  Of course, there were a few kids who I disagreed with and exercised “command override” but after a month or so, I rarely disagreed with the students’ self-assessment.  A huge benefit to having the students grade themselves with my concurrence, is that we NEVER argued grades. 

When the end of the year rolled around, I created a final exam that was not a traditional comprehensive exam.  It also was not a resume.  I created a final exam which was a self-assessment.    All I needed to do was to provide a printout of the database page with their total time on task and the class average of that same task.

What follows is the document of the self-assessment final.  Although it was not a resume, it did elicit all the information which the students would need to compile to write a resume.  The vast majority of the time, I completely agreed with the grade they felt they deserved for the class but since the students gave themselves that grade (and had done so on weekly grades all year long) angst and argument over grades never occurred.


In order to complete this evaluation, you will need your daily logs for the year.  In an essay answer format you are to evaluate your performance, productivity, and the size of your knowledge base.  You have been given your log totals and the class average in each category covered by the log. These are all you will need, your own memory, experiences, computer and printer or paper and pen.

Think as if you were employed in the video production field and were undergoing your annual evaluation.  Your supervisor may have designated areas (on your log time sheet) where you are below average in the performance of your duties.  You must justify why he should not reprimand you through demotion or actually fire you.  On the other hand, perhaps your supervisor has designated areas where you are above average.  Justify what you've done and try to convince him to give you a promotion.  Your supervisor will do one of five things: 

[1] fire you – “F”,

[2] place you on probation with a demotion in position and a reduction in salary – “D”,

[3] let you remain at your current level for another year – “C”,

[4] give you a bonus for working so hard this year – “B”,  or

[5] promote you to the next level in the company with a substantial increase in salary – “A”. 

Which of these actions he takes will depend to some extent on how well you state your case.  That is, what is the actual content of what you say, how truthful it is, and how well you back it up with examples.  Any comments you make without backup examples might as well not be made because they will not be considered. 

Because this is a take-home evaluation and you have plenty of time to do it, you may rest assured that spelling will count.  (Loss of one point for every misspelled word.)  I would suggest that you not discuss your answers with any other students.  You wouldn't want your answers to sound too much like anyone else's.  Sameness could certainly be interpreted as dishonesty.  None of you are clones of each other.  Be yourself.

You are evaluating your entire year's work in a two-credit course.  When have you ever taken a course where you had the opportunity to be involved as directly in your own grading process as you have been this year?  Do not cheat yourself (unless you are ready to blame yourself) by completing this evaluation half-heartedly or quickly.  You must deal, in some way, with every question asked.  Number your answers to correspond with the questions.  

1.  What is a fair representation of what you've done this year both in and out of class in video-related activities?  To answer this question, just list the titles of programs you worked on beside each job listed below.  Follow this list with the total number of programs in that category and circle it.  For example:

Director:  Humane Society PSA, The Game, New Body, Living Chia Pet, Without a Home, Insta-grit, Metropolitan Magazine, Dance Competition, East Side Story  

Create the same type of list for each of these jobs:
Director  (if you directed and crewed your own show, list it under “director” only)

Crewed for someone else in the following positions:
Camera Operator   Editor
Audio Engineer   Floor Manager
Lighting Designer   Set Construction
CG Operator    SEG Operator (Technical Director)

2.  Look at your log sheets now.  In EACH area where your time is 50% or lower than the class average, you are to explain why it is so low.  You must use a different paragraph for each area you discuss. 

3.  Again, look at the log sheets.  Choose up to SEVEN areas where your time is 150% or more higher than the class average.  If you are significantly higher than the average, explain why you are so much higher.  In other words, are your times higher because you are not very proficient yet or waste time, or are they higher because you are doing QUALITY and QUANTITY work you enjoy (in which case I will have seen the quantity and quality of your FINISHED products.  Make sure you mention titles). 

4.  What do you feel is your strongest area of TV Production at this time?  In other words, if you were offered any job in television tomorrow, what job do you feel you are most qualified to perform successfully?

5.  What specifically do you feel is the best thing you've done in the class this year?  That is, from a quality of work standpoint, what do you want to be remembered for doing?  Be specific.

6.  If you were going to return next year, what three areas of production, in your estimation, do you feel you need the most work on in order to be more employable?  These might not be the same thing you said in #2.  

7.  What suggestions for the improvement of the facility, equipment (be realistic, please) and/or the course, 1st or 2nd year, do you have which could be implemented next year?  I think all of you know by now that you can speak your mind to me without reprisal.  I may not agree with you, but if you don't like something about the class and tell me about it, I won't get mad and take it out on your grade.  As a matter of fact, there is a good chance that I will take any and all constructive criticism and incorporate it into next year's course.  What areas of TV Prod. have I taught well?  Poorly?  What parts of the class were most enjoyable?  Why?  What parts of the class were least enjoyable?  Why?  Was there a topic you would have liked me to do or go over this year that we didn't get to?  What items need to be added, deleted, or changed on the log sheets?  I've tried to give you plenty of freedom to find your own way.  Do you have any suggestions about the creation or abolition of rules of operation?  Often at this time of the year, students say "You should have emphasized more about  ______";  or "I wish I had listened better when you  _______";  or " You shouldn't let students _______"; or " You need to make a rule about  _______."  Do you have any of these?  Fundamentally, the operation of this class as it exists today has evolved over the years primarily as a response to what you, the students, have said to me on this and similar end of year evaluations.  This is your chance to make your mark on the facility.  Give me some suggestions, please.

8.  Do you have anything else you wish to add to your evaluation which has not been covered in previous questions?  Here is your chance.  (Those who have done jobs for outside clients need to list them here.  If you need a list of them just ask me to print it out for you.  After listing the jobs, count them and circle the total. 

9.  The purpose of this class is to allow you the opportunity to explore the world of TV Production while learning entry level skills in training for the position of Production Assistant.  A Production Assistant is a well-rounded individual.  The more experienced you are in a large number of areas correlates directly to how employable you are.  You have been given a great deal of freedom to set your own path to the goal of Production Assistant.  How well have you fared?  In other words, based on all of your preceding answers, what grade do you feel you deserve for your performance this year? 

10.  Return this entire stapled package when you turn in your exam.