Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bragging on Students and, yes, on myself!

I love grading papers! Does that sound weird? One reason I can say this is because I strive to give assignments that are fun to grade. I also like to elicit responses that are plagiarism-immune. I am in agreement with David Loertscher, Jamie McKenzie, Doug Johnson, and many others about the nature of assignments and the part it plays in encouraging or discouraging plagiarism. For one of my first assignments in my Internet For Librarians class, I have students complete an online tutorial. They are forbidden to do summaries in any form to describe their learning, and that includes pasting them over into Powerpoint and calling that a presentation. They are directed to convince me that the covered and ASSIMILATED the information by a creative means of their choice. Obvious response are diaries, letters to someone explaining the Internet, time travel either backward or forward, radio scripts, etc. So far today I have had two radio shows, a poem (takeoff on Night Before Christmas), song (tune of "Jingle Bells"), and my favorite, a wonderful letter from a student to her previous self circa 1984. This one had pictures and personal touches and also many great visuals she created because she was and still is a visual learner. I don't have a problem with students conversing, exchanging ideas, etc. and suspect the poem and song writers may have talked over options. But the content was theirs. NO CUT AND PASTE.

Is this type of assignment new and novel? Anybody who had Dr. Clement Goode at Baylor for English back in the '60s and after will remember his party tests. He would set up a scenario and you had to play it out demonstrating thorough knowledge of the characters and works covered. For example, imagine your characters all attended a Medieval feast. Who would sit above or below the salt? Who would get into arguments? What would Wife of Bath say to Sir Gawain? How would Beowulf make his appearance? Any response could be fine as long as you were true to your material.

I gave "party tests" to 7th grade Language Arts students for years. The first one would blow their minds. No matching? No multiple choice? How could they be sure they were right? But they got over it and came up with some great responses. I had students come back to see me years later and tell me they never forgot those tests, just as I never forgot Dr. Goode's exams.

So here is a shout-out to originality and creative thought! Let's fight to keep them alive in the face of standardized tests.

1 comment:

  1. Cheers to you Mary Ann for this excellent post and for more "originality and creative thought!" Let's encourage all educators to develop more interesting, engaging and challenging assignments for students!