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Exam-Free Exam Week

Is an exam-free midterm week even possible? At Carleton? Absolutely.

Is an exam-free midterm week even possible? At Carleton? Absolutely.

I should probably start by saying that at Carleton, midterms are more of a concept rather than an actual thing. Instead of having a designated midterm week built into the academic calendar, professors are free to design their midterm evaluations in the way that best suits their students and their subjects.

My friends have been having midterms for about three weeks now. Their experiences range from your traditional multiple-choice exams to geology field trips and full-fledged papers. My own experience has not been very different.

Discussing aging in Growing up in an Aging Society 

As a prospective Sociology/Anthropology major, I have thoroughly enjoyed this class. Our classes are usually structured as conversations between my professor, my peers, and myself. My classmates, who are all upperclassmen, elevate the discussion with their trained sociological perspectives, and I always enjoy it when our professor challenges our preconceptions about the aging experience.

Nomadland' is our March book club pick | PBS NewsHour
One of the books we have read in my sociology class. A must-read if you are at all interested in the modern retirement experience. (Sure, there is a movie, but these are two very different texts.)

In lieu of a midterm exam, we had a student-led discussion about everything we had covered in the course so far. We each proposed questions or statements to examine, and collaborated to make sure everyone understood the relevant theories and concepts. We built on each other’s ideas, asked questions, and searched together for the answers. It was a really organic debate, and it definitely did not feel like an evaluation at all.

An essay… for my Introduction to Calculus class?

Okay, bear with me for a second here. I know how this sounds. I, too, thought it was crazy when my calculus professor first proposed that, instead of your middle-of-the-road math exam, we should write an essay for our midterm evaluation. I knew the liberal arts education could be quirky, I just never thought it would be this quirky.

Although I was admittedly a little reluctant at first, this turned out to be quite a mind-opening experience. I had never before done anything of the sort, so the task of writing a three-page essay summarizing the entire course up to that point was daunting, to say the least. The challenge, however, proved to live up to the promise.

I think that this was a considerably better way to evaluate our understanding of the course’s contents, more so than any exam. Not only that, but it was also a lot less stressful. We had more freedom to decide what we considered the most important topics to review and to decide when, where, and how we wanted to do the work.

My professor’s mission is to humanize mathematics, and she has accomplished it. Though I don’t think my essay was as great as I would have wanted it to be, I believe it forced me to engage with the course in a way that would not have been possible with a traditional exam.

Going to the theater to learn about Drama, Film, and Society

Ten Thousand Things Theater returns with a lean, witty 'Comedy of Errors' | Star Tribune
Cast members from Ten Thousand Things’ adaptation of The Comedy of Errors.

I am not much of a theater person. I forcefully read Romeo and Juliet and Fuenteovejuna several years ago in high school, and then thought I had escaped this torture of theater. Boy, was I wrong.

I was not exactly thrilled to learn that I would have to read plays for my Argument and Inquiry seminar in the English department. And not just any plays–SHAKESPEARE plays. I already struggled with the guy when I read his work in Spanish; I could not imagine the torture of having to engage with him in English. Needless to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong; Shakespeare turned out to be a lot more fun than I had expected.

For our midterm activity, we had a trip to the Twin Cities to watch Ten Thousand Things’ rendition of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. The theater company is known for getting theater to communities that usually don’t have access to it. That means they usually have very small casts, little to no scenery and props, and limited special effects equipment. But what they lack in material substance, they absolutely make up for in passion and talent.

Although I couldn’t understand a third of the dialogue, the actors’ performances were enough for me to be completely absorbed by their world. I laughed non-stop, I was shocked by the plot twist, and I might have even, perhaps, developed a slight crush on one of the actors. Never have I been so glad to be so mistaken about something before.

So, yeah…

“Midterm week” was a lot more fun than anticipated. Now, let’s see if finals week lives up to the standard.

Fátima strives to learn everything about everything, but is especially interested in Sociology/AnthropologyPsychology, and Disney! As a freshman, she can’t wait to introduce her peers to her native Guatemalan culture, put in practice her newly acquired ASL skills, and play in the snow for the first time. In her free time, Fátima can be found watching cartoons, poorly playing the ukulele, or desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!