I know a lot of people who prevent copies of their exams from leaving their classrooms. I think this is a bad idea.
I understand the motivation. I’ve taught several courses on a repeated basis, every semester or every year, for many years. Writing good exam questions is difficult, and it’s nice to be able to re-use questions.
But even though I understand the motivation, I also see a few major problems.
1. It doesn’t work. Even if you try to lock down your classroom as much as possible, copies of your exams are going to be getting out there. Trust me on this. It takes just a moment or two to take photos of an exam. Even in the days before everybody had a miniature camera or two in their pockets, exams got circulated. And the more adversarial you get about locking down copies of your exam, the more you emphasize their value to students, and the more these exams will circulate (which is the Tarkin Effect).
When we are working for equity, this usually involves working to remediate perceived deficiencies relative to the template of a well-prepared student — filling in gaps that naturally co-occur with the well-established inequalities that are not going away anytime soon. These efforts at mitigation are bound to come up short, as long as they’re based on our current Deficit Model of STEM Recruitment.Continue reading →