Are you preparing for the new semester? Are you sitting in the position of academic freedom guaranteed by tenure?
Here’s what you might consider to be a radical suggestion, though it’s fully reasonable: Ditch exams this semester.
That’s right. Just don’t have exams. Assign grades using other methods.
Some folks think of exams as a necessary evil. But maybe they are actually not necessary?
What’s the use of exams? In theory, they allow you to assess student learning or student performance so that you can give them a grade. And theoretically they provide an incentive for students to learn. In practice, for most of us, exams are a poor extrinsic motivator that creates more fear than curiosity, and they don’t assess so much what students learned but rather what hoops they have been trained to jump through. What if we put the energy that we put into making and grading exams, and assuaging student concerns about exams, and use this to build classroom activities that might increase intrinsic motivation? That we find ways to evaluate student performance that create less stress for students, because this stress gets in the way of learning?
At some institutions and in some fields, exams are actually required. In Chemistry, for example, I suspect exams a part of ACS accreditation. It might just be a matter of social pressure. However, in the biology programs I’m most familiar with, if a tenured professor wanted to stop giving exams, they could. There would be no university rule or chair or dean who could require them to do so.
Anyway, I’m not saying this is an idea that will work for you. Just throwing out there as something to consider.