The students were never told this is the actual exam or this will be on the exam; my physics teacher used to give us the problems for the exam as a study guide and those were the exact problems on the test, if you studied that.

If this is a coordinated course, do I get some autonomy and do as my physics teacher used to do?

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    Hi l.r., welcome to stackexchange. It's not very clear exactly what you're asking here. Can you clarify? – Flyto Jun 8 '18 at 11:36
  • Can you clarify what you mean by coordinated course? How coordinated are the sections at your department? – Dawn Jun 8 '18 at 12:56
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    I'm not sure this qualifies as a matter of ethics. Whether or not a particular teaching philosophy/practice is wise and efficacious isn't really an ethical issue. Unless you're wanting to go old school stereotype and start smacking people on the knuckles with rulers or something, that is. And none of these things are particularly relevant to whether you have the autonomy and authority to do such a thing. – zibadawa timmy Jun 8 '18 at 15:50
  • Hello everyone. Thank you so much for your input so far. A coordinated course online is one which is structured for all faculty so they have to give 4 quizzes, 2 practice exams, two exams in this case. Each exam weighs 35% of their grade and each quiz weighs 2.5% and each practice exam weighs 10%. The practice exam is essentially the test with double the questions, so I made a study guide based on the ones that looked like the exam (15 questions) to guide them better. cont... – l.r. Jun 9 '18 at 10:10
  • I didn't see anything wrong with that, but apparently it is at my institution. That's why the question. I just thought about it as a teaching practice. My teachers used to do it. They would never tell us, "this is the test, study it!". If you are really not wise, you missed the chance by not studying the problems I gave you. I saw it as being more than fair to them so they don't complain. – l.r. Jun 9 '18 at 10:10

I give a mock exam that gives example questions from the topics that are covered in the exam but not the actual questions themselves.

This enables specific words or formats etc to be used in the mock so that one is sure that the students cannot say that they have not been covered...

Edit based on my comment:

For the nine topics covered, there are 15 or so practice questions which are part of the "coursework" for each topic, so there is plenty of practice. The exam questions are based on any of those questions, with a different story, different numbers or part A is the same but part B is then different etc

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  • In addition to this, I also make available the final exams used from previous semesters. It stops me being lazy and re-using questions that match previous ones too closely. :-) – Peter K. Jun 8 '18 at 13:47
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    I give 15 or so practice questions for each topic (there are 9 topics) and the exam ones are similar to those questions - different story, different numbers etc. – Solar Mike Jun 8 '18 at 13:50

I wouldn't say "unethical" but I don't think it's a great idea. Although it does reward students who do the study problems, it will disproportionately reward students who can remember line-for-line exactly what they did, over those who instead focused on learning the general concepts.

Also, it only works once. After the first time, it will become known among students that you do this. Lazy students will know that they can get a friend to solve all the problems, borrow their solutions, and memorize them.

As to whether you have the autonomy to do this in a coordinated course: it depends. "Coordinated" covers a wide spectrum of practices. In many cases it is expected that the instructors will cooperate to write a single common exam. Even if not, I think this is something that you should not do without the coordinator's agreement; it's far enough outside the norm that the coordinator may feel that it is not equitable between your students and those in other sections.

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  • It’s very difficult to memorise all the formulae used in an excel model with the solver settings and then just one slight wording change alters the constraints necessary - “less than” is different to “less than or equal to” and “greater than” is different to “greater than or equal to”... luckily these are not just a small essay or some such ... having just marked 190 I can vouch for a good spread of grades !!! – Solar Mike Jun 8 '18 at 15:25
  • @SolarMike That doesn't sound like the type of subject matter and exam Nate is imagining. He's probably thinking more of math and physics exams (the OP specifically mentions a physics course, though doesn't clearly specify if that's what he's involved with teaching). And in either case, taking the pre-computed perfect solution and simply typing/writing/whatever it out over and over will have it memorized in due time, and whatever generalizations they make will be far narrower in scope than those made by people prioritizing general concepts in their exam studies. – zibadawa timmy Jun 8 '18 at 15:38
  • @SolarMike Nate also make zero claims whatsoever about the grade distribution. "Nice grade distribution" does not imply the exam is equitable or rewards learning in the way it should. I could give a mathematics class a history exam all about the War of 1812 and get a nice grade distribution, but that's hardly appropriate. – zibadawa timmy Jun 8 '18 at 15:40
  • @SolarMike: The question did specify using "the exact problems" from the study guide on the exams. If even small changes were made, that would change things somewhat. And yes, I was thinking of traditional math/physics problems (the question title says "math" so I assume that's OP's field). I agree with zibadawa timmy that grade distribution alone isn't good evidence of whether a particular strategy is pedagogically appropriate. – Nate Eldredge Jun 8 '18 at 15:59
  • So, trying to open the field and give experiences from different areas mmight have been taken as useful... Oh and I note the Op is quoting from His teacher’s practice - not what he is actually doing, so he, I believe, is looking for other options - one of which I hope I offered... – Solar Mike Jun 8 '18 at 16:10

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