From Josh Callahan's, "Under Construction," Fall '99 From Josh Callahan's, "Under Construction," Fall '99The University of Buenos Aires, Argentina's largest university with over 200,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs, has a finals period that is slightly longer than Penn's. Two years. Unlike at Penn, where students doing research papers much chose and work on a topic long before the end of class, students in Argentina can wait until the course is over and all the course material has been presented before picking a topic. Most importantly, Argentine students have more time to prepare for both their tests and papers because the two do not overlap. There is time to study for exams, take exams and then begin meaningful work on papers. While a window of two years seems excessive as well as impractical for Penn students -- Argentine students often graduate in six years at the least -- their system does have valuable advantages. Therefore, I would propose opening a one-month window for papers to be submitted following the end of the semester. For example, in the fall semester, students would be allowed to turn in work until the end of the first week of the spring semester, roughly the second or third week in January. An equivalent amount of time would be given in the spring semester. The exceptions, of course, are students who want to walk down the graduation aisle in May and need the credit to graduate. Tests, meanwhile, would continue to be given in the same fashion. The system employed by Princeton and Harvard where students return following a winter break to take exams is of no value to students, as they are generally better off sitting in front of a test while some semblance of the information from the lectures might still be hanging around in their brains. Students who don't want to be bothered by papers and projects during their vacations would of course have the right to hand them in earlier. This new system simply creates more options for students who want to space out their work and thereby have some hope of keeping up with professor's expectations. University administrators must recognize that at present, it is hard to do anything but cram for tests and quickly punch out papers. Defending Penn's current system is at best unfaithful to the mission of furthering knowledge and educating young minds. Cramming has been proven again and again in studies to be a completely ineffective way of storing information in our long-term memories. It serves its purpose -- scoring well on exams -- but that should not be the goal of a Penn education. Professors would no longer have winter break to grade papers as they do now, but they would gain the advantage of having papers flow in over a greater time period. Thus, rather than facing a stack of 30 papers to be read all at once, professors could pay more attention to each student's work. This is not about procrastinating -- Argentine students rarely use the full two years to do their work. Most students turn in papers within two to six months of the end of a class. But those few months allow students to find the most opportune time to do their best work. Right now, University rules are getting in the way of what Penn should want most -- more knowledgeable and happier students. By giving students those few months, the University could accomplish both goals.Comments powered by Disqus
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