I believe I may have scheduled an exam too early, and I am considering delaying it by a day or two. The material that I would cover fits in fairly well with the earlier material, and not as well with the later material. I can cover the material as is, but barely so, and the students would not have time to digest it or gain experience via a homework set. I have already put the approximate dates of our four exams in the “tentative” course schedule.
What factors should I consider when making this decision, and how should I weigh these factors?
Here are some factors I've thought of:
- Whether or not I have time to cover the material in class
- How much advance notice is given (Changing the date the day before is probably too late, right?)
- Whether or not the students would like the exam to be delayed (I'm guessing they will!)
- Department or institutional policies
- Whether or not student accommodation services (e.g. make-ups, proctors, alternative formats, etc.) need to be scheduled in advance
I think there are a few things that are clear (some from the comments—thanks!):
- It matters whether or not any posted exam dates are described as tentative or firm. Tentative dates are estimates and students should understand that they are subject to change, whereas students may plan around firm dates.
- Exams should not be moved to a significantly earlier date. This is not fair to students.
- Students should not be tested on material they haven't had a chance to engage with (in and/or out of the classroom) or ask questions about.
- Special understanding and grace should be extended to students who miss an exam date due to a scheduled change (especially for short-notice changes). Of course, students who miss an exam for a school-approved reason (e.g. sports/research/bereavement travel) usually have the right to make it up anyway.
- If the instructor polls the students offering to make a change to the exam content and/or date, and they unanimously support the proposed change, then there's no reason not to do so.
I polled the students before asking this question. Almost 60% of students preferred moving the exam date back one day to cover the extra material, and about 35% preferred keeping the exam on the same day but having it cover less material. In spite of their preference to delay the exam, and in spite of the dropped material fitting better with the this exam than with the next exam, I decided to move 25% of the content of this exam to the next exam. Thanks to all for the discussion!