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December 20, 2010


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Jonathan H. Adler

I wouldn't say I've had an exam question "fail," but I've certainly had occasions where my students read a question differently from how I had intended them to, and either missed an issue I thought I had put into the question or found issues that I didn't intend to include. In such instances I readily give credit if, in fact, the students were correct to spot an issue I had not intended to include. That is, if an issue is in the question, they get credit for addressing it properly, whether I had intended to include the issue or not. Failing to read my mind or guess my intentions is not something for which a student should be punished.

For this reason, I always read a selection of my students exams before I finalize my grading sheet. This lets me see whether my students went in a direction different from what I had intended and enables me to orient my grading appropriately.



Suggestion: have a former student (preferably a just graduated 3L - their minds still have some law school training left) read over it and send you a short bulleted list of what it made them think of. Even though it won't be exactly what a current student would write, it would at least be from someone close to the target audience.

Sarah Krakoff

How timely! Am just grappling with this now. My mistake was a twist on the "read my mind" variety. I asked a question that, while fair based on class coverage, turned out to be slightly too obscure and slightly too similar to a related, but ultimately fruitless, line of inquiry. Only 3% of my students answered the question "correctly." This seems to be a clear indication of professor-error, given that the exams otherwise were very good on the whole. My solution is that I am going to re-scale the points, reducing greatly the number originally allocated to this question, so that the handful of students who got it right will get the equivalent of extra credit points and the other students will not have their total raw scores skewed too low. I am happy with this solution to my particular form of the problem, but if others have better ideas, it is not too late!

David S. Cohen

Sarah - I think you've got the right approach there. Although, I might still differentiate between students who gave the answer an honest try and were thoughtful about it (even if wrong) versus those who just did nothing in light of not knowing the answer.

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