Let me be clear from the outset: I really, really, really don’t like assigning final exams in English literature courses. They don’t work in relation to the type of learning I want from my students because I’m more interested in what students get out of a course than whether or not they can show me that they have read and understood the assigned course readings. I don’t want to test you. I don’t want you to master any of the material in this course. I don’t even want you to memorize key concepts and ideas.
I want you to think, be confused, feel a little lost at times, and generally wonder at the strange mix of sophistication and weirdness of the major works of the early Victorian period. Also, I want your blog entries and final research papers to express enthusiasm for collaborative thinking, sharing of ideas, and arguing with other scholars (in a nice way, of course). I also want you to come to terms with the fact that you don’t know everything there is to know about Victorian literature. This is not a bad thing.
However, I completely understand the rationale for making final exams mandatory in English courses where students are expected to cover a range of literary texts from a period such as the Victorian era. I just have a different pedagogical way of thinking about learning in the classroom. Because a final exam is mandatory in ENGL 352, we will have to find some way to satisfy the course’s stated learning outcomes while also ensuring that the final exam does not run counter to the learning I want from each of you this semester.
Basically, I want you to find something amazing and profound from SOMETHING in this class, even if it’s just a small feature of a text. Sure, I want you to receive a broad coverage of the major literary works in the early Victorian period, but certainly we can do this while also pursuing the weird, the strange, and the bizarre little references that stick with us, the references that you might actually write about in your research essays and your blog assignments, the references that you might actually remember years from now.
So, here’s what I’m asking: what kind of final exam do you want from this class? We can talk about this. We can figure this out together so that the exam is collaborative and reflects a spirit of engagement that does not flow down from the Instructor’s usual position of power. If you have any suggestions, please comment below. We’ll talk about this in class, for sure, but why not make this conversation public here in our course blog?
See you in class on Friday!