Does the final grade for a student depend entirely on the numbers, or is there a certain element of whether or not they learned the material intrinsic in the final analysis? This was a discussion I had with a colleague of mine the other day when talking about our classes, and her argument made a lot of sense to me. Her point was that if the students did not do well on a particular exam, but demonstrated knowledge of that exam's material on the cumulative final, she would use the "grade" on the final section to replace the exam grade. She did not tell the students this (to avoid a lack of effort on the midterms), but put it into practice.
It is certainly easier to hold up the numbers and say that a student earned an 'X' grade based on their performance, but I've been thinking whether or not a strict adherence to the numbers actually has any value in actually rewarding the students for learning. This is particularly relevant to me as I sit in front of my class taking their final this morning, because their second exam was a blood bath with an average of 45%. But, about 25% of the final is on the same material, which should give me an idea about what they learned from that portion of the class. Opportunity or dangerous precedent?
Obviously, this type of policy would favor the students in the class who, to this point, are not doing all that well. Is it fair to give them the opportunity to boost their grade when others have done so by performing when they had to? Honestly, I don't know. Like with just about everything relating to teaching, I'm figuring this out as I go. If our objective, however, is for the students to learn the material during the course then it stands to reason that they should be rewarded for 'getting it' even if it doesn't click until the end.