Anger is the Enemy of Instruction -Phil Jackson, Zen Master

TweetBack Thursday comes a day early this week compliments of Richard Caldwell. Richard is the man who is responsible for our testing center and he knows a storm is coming. He asks that I sound the alarm and tell students to plan ahead so that they can weather this storm relatively stress free.

The storm: This finals period more than eighteen thousand exams will close in the Keon Testing Center. Yes, you read that right. The exact number is 18,164. It is a staggering number and you can see how many tests close each day by clicking here. Note the number of exams that close on Friday and Saturday: it is more than half the total.

Richard wants me to encourage you to avoid the inevitable lines by taking your exams early. Only eight percent of exams are taken on the first day they are available. In contrast, a whopping seventy-two percent are taken on the last day. This means that at least 3200 exams will be taken on Friday and 4300 on Saturday by people who waited until the last day. That looks like this:

Finals 2009

Finals 2009

Even with this compelling photo, I know my plea will fail. What we have here is a big free-rider problem. All of you hope I will convince others to go earlier so you can wait to the last minute, walk right in and take your exam. Which means the vast majority of you will go the last day, walk to the end of a very long line and get frustrated by how slowly it moves. Frustration will turn to anger. Anger, as Phil Jackson notes, is the enemy of instruction. It clouds judgment, reduces focus, and leads to suboptimal performance. Listen to the Zen Master: he has lots of championship rings to back him up.

The long term solution is to save you all from yourselves by smoothing out the number of exams that close each day so that they don’t all pile up like they do this semester. Geez in my day tests were given once. The school scheduled it and it was your responsibility to show up. Test times weren’t optional. This procedure ensured that room space was allocated efficiently and students knew exactly when they would take the test with no waiting. I vote we do that. For large sections we could give students different times based on their student identification numbers or first letter of their last name.

Until I get my way, you can still procrastinate and reduce your stress in two ways. One is to schedule your exam time using the COBA Pass. Disney charges extra for their fast pass, we give you this option for free: THIS IS A NO-BRAINER- USE IT. If you are too lazy or undisciplined to schedule your exam time, show up before 11 am to take your test. I am told there is never a line then.

If Phil Jackson can’t convince you, how about UCLA’s John Wooden (yes he is way before your time go ahead and google him): failing to plan is planning to fail. You have spent a lot of time, energy and money to get this far, don’t let a failure to plan your exam time stress you out as you wait in a long line to take your test.

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4 thoughts on “Anger is the Enemy of Instruction -Phil Jackson, Zen Master

  1. Great post! I’ve re-posted it in webcourses for my ECO 2013 students. Let’s talk some more about your idea for efficiently allocating time slots. Thanks.

  2. Although I have asked for more control over finals week scheduling, telling a professor how to operate their schedule doesn’t typically get received well. Especially when you are trying to schedule an exam after the syllabus is created.

    I have discussed options including requiring classes of certain sizes to close at certain times. For instance MAR3023 (1450 students) being open all day long but a smaller class size like ECO2013H closing earlier in the day. This option gives professor’s the ability to open and close their exams on the day of their choosing but also spreads the exam load throughout the day rather than having everyone come in between 4pm and 8pm.

    Also, we have the statistics and know the total exam times, average exam times and class sizes. By utilizing this information, the ultimate goal would be to allow us to schedule final exams entirely. Giving us the ability to open and close exams with the knowledge of how many students will be coming in at any given time and also knowing how long (on average) they will be here would potentially allow us to do greater than 5,000 exams in a single day. Our current record is 3,998 on 4/26/2012. I also feel as though I am being conservative with the 5,000 exams but I don’t want to write too big of a check 🙂

    When a line to the testing center forms, I dislike it just as much as any student. Without the ability to change the scheduling of exams, lines will continue to form, heavily loaded days will stay and students will continue to come later in the day.

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