I took a sociology course in college and I wish my professor had done this.

What a boring subject.

Jacqueline Thomsen of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Celebrations, Not Tests

Students entering a classroom to take a test can be filled with a sense of dread. But in one classroom at Baylor University, students in some sections of Introduction to Sociology are greeted by balloons, streamers, bright lights and loud music.

Their professor isn’t administering an exam, they’re told. Instead, they are there to celebrate what they’ve learned.

Kevin Dougherty, an associate professor of sociology at Baylor University, is trying to reframe the way both students and faculty members approach assessments by changing the environment in which students are evaluated, relabeling quizzes and exams as “learning checks” and “learning celebrations.”

“I’ve banished any talk of quizzes or exams,” he said. “Every time a student says something about a test or a quiz I say, ‘oh no, that’s much too boring for our material.’”

While taking the traditional multiple-choice exam, students may find themselves mentioned in the questions, or see scenarios described in the questions that they may encounter, such as being evicted from a dormitory for having a pet.

By further personally engaging the students in the content of the test, Dougherty said he hopes to drive the concepts that were taught in lectures and readings a little closer to home, to both introduce students to what sociology is and possibly convince them to take more courses on the subject.

“That very ambience as they walked into the room was different in telling ways,” he said. “Just watching students walk in and seeing their countenance change was, I think, an important point.”