Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Teaching advice?

I have a teaching question for all of you: I am teaching a class in the fall that I have taught several times. One of the assignments for the class involves collecting news articles over the semester to monitor media reporting of the class topic. Each week, two students post their articles for the others to read, then come to class and provide a brief overview. We have some small-group discussion about the articles, then continue with the rest of class. I am pretty satisfied with this aspect of the class.

The other part of it is that the students turn in a collective journal at the end of the semester. They are split into groups by media source location and are required to each have one article per week, plus a reflective sort of write-up for each one. The first time I used this format was last year and the feedback I got on my evaluations about the collective journal was not great. They saw it as a waste of time. I think the problem is that they DIDN'T keep up with the assignment during the semester (big surprise), so they wrote it all at the end and it was a pain.

I don't want to have them turn in things every week, because I already have LOTS of grading for this course. They turn in parts of a paper assignment all semester including doing peer-reviews. Does anyone have suggestions on this news article/journal assignment to make it seem more valuable to them? I think the writing is a great exercise (and this is not a humanities or social science course).

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!



Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

You could reduce the number of articles, but have them spread over the semester. So, have them write about three or four articles, but the dates need to be from September, October, November and December. Tell them that they should write the reflective pieces as they go or change the assignment to have them watch a trend and write one longer paper about it.

The only way to keep them writing on a weekly basis is to have them turn it is on a weekly basis. I suppose what you could do is to record them, but not read them until they are a collection? You could file them in individual files by student and then near the end of the semester return the articles to the students for a final revision. I think they'd hate this as well, because they are turning stuff in they aren't getting back.

Seeking Solace said...

I was going to suggest the same thing. By using a reflective peice, the students will get something out of it. Ioften have my students look at current isses so that they are informed about the world.

Addy N. said...

Thanks for the ideas! I was also wondering if I should make the weekly assignment electronic- have each group keep a blog and then each group member would have to post a link to their article with a commentary each week (or month). Has anyone used blogs for class in a similar way?

Dr. Crazy said...

I'm wondering whether one reason why they hated it is because it's a group effort? My students tend to hate extended group projects that count for a significant time investment/portion of grade.

I think having them do it with a blog might make it fun for them BUT depending on your student population, you may have some who complain that they don't have internet access/a computer that can do the stuff/the know-how to do what you ask. (I know, there are computer labs, and if we can figure out blogging they surely should be able to, but I've got students who need me to teach them how to use MS Word, so I tend to worry about stuff like this.)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I like the blog idea -- Dr. Crazy makes a good point about extended group projects. At my school they are hard because people drop out of classes pretty frequently without any notice.

What you could do would be to divide them into groups according to topic, but keep the assignment individual. If you use the blog idea, you could have one blog per topic area. If it is all public, I'd probably require one comment per-month outside of of the student's own topic area.

I haven't used blogs like this, although some have... You could probably set-up the blogs yourself and administer the log-in stuff on your own. If your school has the ability to do on-line teaching, you could probably do it via Blackboard or whatever your school uses.

Addy N. said...

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone! I agree that technology can be an issue with the blog thing. I have a class blog for my summer class right now (on blogger) and I am AMAZED how many of them can't figure out to post a comment and those that do, have trouble figuring out how to post as "Other" (with a name they choose). I'll give it some thought over the next couple of weeks. I could do Blackboard, but the interface isn't as nice as blogger (if you ask me!) And I like things to look nice even if the students don't care!

Mel said...

it depends what you are looking for in the assignment (and therefore what you grade for) -- if it's truly just reflection/doing the writing, then a check, check plus, check minus grading system for weekly or maybe monthly turn-ins (plus an extra credit one offered at end of sem) is fine. Easy for you, and they keep up with it. If you want the writing to be teaching them something else, then it's a differenet story. I second Dr C on group projects with an end of term due date -- they have to be really maintained thru the semester for students to care.