Teaching Tip: Cumulative Exams in Your OM Course
“The evidence that students retain content longer and can apply it better when exams and finals are cumulative is compelling,” reports Faculty Focus (March 18, 2015). Will your students yell and scream? Yes, but for the very reason we should be using them: they force regular, repeated encounters with the content. It’s those multiple interactions with the material that move learning from memorization to understanding. Students object because they don’t know how to study for long-term retention. Here are 3 suggestions:
1. Use previous or potential test questions.
Display a question at the beginning of the session. “Here’s a test question I’ve asked previously about TQM. How would you answer it?” Give them time to talk with each other. Have them look in their notes.
Have students create a possible test question. “This material on project crashing is fair game for the exam. What might a test question about it be?” Identify those that are good. If one those student questions ends up on the test, that pretty much guarantees that students will take this activity seriously.
2. Make a habit of asking questions about previous material. A few guidelines:
Do not answer the questions yourself. Give a hint if needed.
Ignore their looks of confusion and claims that they don’t have a clue.
No response? Tell them, “that’s the question we’ll start with in our next class and if you don’t have an answer then, it’s a potential exam question for sure.”
3. Have students do short reviews of previous material.
In class today, say, “Let’s all look at our notes from last week. Take 2 minutes to underline 3 things in your notes that you’re going to need to review for the exam.”
Late in the semester, say, “Take 3 minutes to review your notes from a month ago. Do you have anything in those notes that doesn’t make sense to you now?” Encourage them to write more in their notes if they need to.
Students who regularly encounter previous content in your OM course, find studying for cumulative exams easier