Project-based takes first place: Students compare test and project finals

You sit up suddenly in bed. Mind racing, you panic, sure you’ve forgotten about a test. Did you forget to study for your science final? As the sleepiness wears off, you realize your teacher isn’t giving you a test at all. Instead, they decided to assign a final project. You’ve had about a week to make sure you demonstrated your knowledge well, and now all you have to do is present.

Many students develop bad habits in school due to stress, such as caffeine dependencies or getting low quality sleep, especially when it comes to finals week. However, in recent years, with the increase of project based learning (PBL), projects have become part of some students’ finals, either in place of, or in addition to tests. While some students and teachers shared that they prefer projects and feel they help reduce some of the finals week stress, most agreed that the benefits of projects depend on the material and subject.

AP U.S. History teacher, Jason Obstarczyk, has tried assigning projects as a part of students’ finals in past years, but recently he’s chosen to stick to tests.

“I just didn’t think projects covered enough of the material that we had done that semester,” Obstarczyk said. “The test questions, the style, the time constraints; I try to mimic what students are going to experience for the AP exam.”

Biotech teacher, Timothy Blok, has also assigned both project and test finals in the past. He believes that the decision between which final he decides to do is ultimately based on the students and how quickly they get through the material.

“It really depends on the kids in the class, how they’re going through it, if there are any learning gaps I need to fill,” Blok said.

Junior Grace Venezia shared that, while she wasn’t assigned any projects, some teachers assigned essay finals. While essays aren’t the same as projects, they still provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in a different way than that of a standard multiple choice or short answer test.

“I’d probably prefer an essay because I have time to prepare myself, and I get to use the information in a way that can allow me to interpret it, and research it by myself,” Venezia said.

Tests, especially those that students take for finals, tend to cover a lot of materials. Whether it’s one unit, a semester, or even the whole year’s worth of knowledge, studying is often an overwhelming process.

Sophomore Amy Dhein feels that the amount of knowledge that tests often require is what makes them stressful, but projects allow students to take more time to figure out the material.

“We have more time to understand and comprehend the ideas more than we’d have for a test,” Dhein said.

Junior Manvitha Kancharla agrees, adding that projects demonstrate the same knowledge they’d show on a test, just in a different format.

“With tests, you’re getting quizzed on what you know that specific day,” Kancharla said. “It doesn’t represent completely what your knowledge is. Whereas, with a project, you have like, two weeks to work on it, you’re putting all your effort into it, you’re showing everything that you know.”

Blok feels that projects tend to be more beneficial, and can also help him better understand where students need help. For the final, he picks the one he feels will be best for the students, but for the rest of the year he assigns a mix of both.

“Handing a test out and using scantrons is super easy for me, but I don’t get the best indication sometimes of student learning with that kind of application, so that’s why I like to do a bunch of different stuff,” Blok said.

Whether students are cramming for their tests or putting finishing touches on projects, almost everyone is stressed.

“Even with all my studying, I’m really overwhelmed,” Venezia said. “I am shaking in my boots about finals.”

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