The first time I taught a particular physics course, the class schedule was three days per week, 50 minute class meetings. I designed my exams for that length of time. The students did well and most students finished comfortably within the 50 minute period. The next time I taught the same course, the class met two days per week, 75 minute class meetings. Another difference was that the previous class was a small class at a community college, and the second class was approaching 200 students at a university. Anyways, I gave the same exams, so I could contrast performance. What surprised me was how many students took the whole time and the class as a whole did worse. The next time I taught the course was the same setup - large class, two days at 75 minutes each, at the university. This class also thought the exams were too long, but did really well overall. I'm currently teaching this same course to a small class at a community college, which meets two days per week, 2 hours each time. These students find the exams too long, although these are the same design, and in some cases the same questions, as the very first time I taught the course. In fact, the reason why I'm posting this now is that I had two students this week need MORE than the two hours to finish the exam.
So, what's going on here? I've come up with some possible issues:
- First time through, I graded everything. Homeworks, exams, etc... The other times, TAs and/or online homeworks were incorporated.
- The most recent section is made up of slightly different majors.
- Test-taking expands to fill the available time.
- Some classes are just better than others.
I've eliminated some possibilities:
- Small class vs. large class - I've had both do well.
- Community college vs. university - I've had both do well.