Final Project: May it be Meaningful and Synthesizing

When I was in college, it was the fashion not to wish people “good luck!” before a final. Instead, people came up with their own phrases that denied the role of luck (I went with “Go forth and conquer!”). One of my friends would always send us off with the wish “May your exam be meaningful and synthesizing.”
As a teacher, I’ve thought about that wish. When I started teaching at a school where I could choose whether or not to give a final exam, I took the time to really look at what I wanted my exam to do. I did want it to be, as my friend had said, “meaningful and synthesizing.” I wanted it to draw together what my students had learned over the course of the year and help them see the connections. I also wanted it to be something that would help them retain the knowledge over the summer and help them at the start of the next year, not something that would make them pour knowledge into their heads the night before the exam and dump it back out the moment they were in the hall after the exam was over.
So, aided and abetted by the fact that the final exam schedule that year was extremely tight, I decided not to give an exam, but a final review project.
The review project was to cover the material we had covered in class that year and create a reference that the student could use in September. This way, if a student forgot something over the summer, he or she could quickly look it up in the packet and find his or her own explanation in his or her own words instead of looking it up in the book and getting lost in information we hadn’t yet covered.
For students who were moving on to a different school, my hope was that the packet would help their new teacher decide their placement levels.
I’ve attached the prompt for the general project. Each class also gets an individualized list with the chapters that they covered and the main topics highlighted.
Each student’s project ends up being slightly different, tailored to his or her needs. This does seem to help them bring together the concepts that they’ve learned, and I hope that they find it useful in the future.

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