May 18 2008

Too easy? NOT!

Published by under Advice

There’s this weird worry I get as a teacher – that I am making things too easy. Fortunately for my students, I chant the mantra of a senior colleague: “you can’t make it too easy.”

So true. Each time I write problems or tests, I worry that students will lose all respect for me. That they will resent studying so hard and then being tested only on the easy stuff. I will be revealed to be an intellectual lightweight, a complete law professor fraud.

And then I remember the mantra. If I were a student taking a test, would I really be mad if the test were straightforward and easy? Answer: No. I would be relieved and happy. I would be ok being able to leave an exam early.

To get a reality check, I have a colleague read the exam. How long does it take just to read the test? What distracted you? What was confusing about the call of the question?

This spring, students had spent a lot of time working on problems – essentially a series of mini essays, similar to those on an exam. I had provided lots of sample answers. The exam was open book, open everything. I worried. Too easy?

I gave the exam to my colleague. There were 3 essay questions, yes, all with subparts. My colleague said it was not too easy. She suggested that the first question looked basic, the second a little more challenging, the third more complex. I agreed. I stopped worrying.

After the exam, I ran into some of the students. Another reality check. Too easy? No, they said. In fact, it was hard to complete the exam within the three hours. These were bright bright students, the ones who soared in all their courses. It’s hard to make an exam too easy. Even when we think it is simple, we forget that we have years of experience and legal training that gives us such an edge over even the most studious 3L.

Too easy? Not!

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