Creating Epic Finales or Limping Across the Finish Line

By Annie Soisson, Associate Director, CELT

One of the things we all struggle with is how to end our courses. How can we end the semester so our students and we really know what they know, have some sense of closure and leave with a desire to know more? Submitting the final paper online, or quietly turning in a final exam seems so anticlimactic, and doesn’t necessarily accomplish any of these objectives. And tests and papers sometimes create a significant advantage for students with particular strengths. In this post we offer some suggestions for how you might create a final assessment that is much less stressful and more empowering for student learning.

Tufts undergraduate students walk by the Jumbo statue on the Medford/Somerville Campus (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)


In the CELT Course Design Institute, we use a model put forward in Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005)) in which the authors ask the question “What are the enduring understandings that you want your students to have?” If you answer that question, you’ll be able to create a meaningful final assessment that truly demonstrates what your students know.

Recently there have been a number of articles describing creative ways to reconstruct how we end a learning experience. In Final Exams and Epic Finales, the author, Anthony Crider of Elon University, describes offering a single question exam or an experiential finale. He outlines the common ingredients he has found important among these finales: low stakes, collaborative, tackling something new, keeping the format a mystery, and creating something that inspires awe. Dr. Crider also describes in another blog how he creatively used technology in his final experience to assess student learning. In this post, The 10 Most Creative Final Exams Ever, the author has gathered ten examples of finals developed by faculty at different colleges and universities. Some of them may inspire you! They range from “Advanced Newsweek” to a “Climate Showcase” to a “Musical Review.”

Whatever you teach, consider how you might end your course that leaves students with a sense of pride in their learning, and wanting to learn more!


Final Exams or Epic Finales:

Indiana University CITL:

Alternatives to the Traditional Final Exam No Matter What you Teach:

The 10 Most Creative Final Exams Ever:

Dr. Crider of Elon University on an Epic Finale: