It came as an unpleasant shock to realize that I had completely failed to respond to or even acknowledge some pretty amazing feedback for an admittedly tentative post I wrote floating an alternative grading structure for essays. I feel like a terrible host, and even now with my current obligations I don’t feel like I can do these ideas justice… but at the very least I can urge you to check out the comments yourself, and offer a few excerpts below.
Barbara Ganley: Some students carry ridiculously heavy loads due to major requirements, and their profs seemingly have no idea (or care) about what might be going on in other courses. Far too many courses punctuate a semester with the same pattern of due dates instead of allowing students more flexibility in deadlines. Your plan could just add more to a student’s plate if s/he chooses a later due date and has to take on the other students’ work.
I also think that not everyone needs to complete the same work. What if students could complete a certain percentage of assignments as first-wave writers (without taking into account their peers’ work) and a certain percentage as reviewers (responding to the ideas of their peers) and a certain percentage as second-wave writers (putting forth their own ideas as well as synthesizing and building on their peers).
[BL – I agree that flexibility in the assignment structure itself, not just the assessment, is key. Just goes to illustrate how tight the relationship between those elements needs to be. ]
Oh, do check out Barbara’s latest post which offers up this observation: Over Thanksgiving break, I watched my younger daughter wade into the four term papers she has to write, the three presentations to prepare and several final examinations to study for. And she attends a college that on paper, at least, understands the foolishness of grades and short-term-memory learning and the disconnect that comes from single-discipline-based majors. I also see on Twitter that people across the world are grading papers and preparing exams. Every course in every institution seems to follow the same pattern, the same kinds of assignments over and over and over. Where is the creativity? The larger view? Do we think students are that dull that they need to repeat the same exercise scores of times?
D’Arcy Norman: How would you address papers submitted close together? With not enough time between them, there would be difficulty in citing previous work, etc…
[BL – Good point, D’Arcy, not really sure how to address that…]
Tania: I have always grappled with this not only as a student but as a teacher/learner. I find the whole process redundant especially when I know that the ‘product’ was more valued than the process and that most of us rote memorized and forgot much of what we memorized a few days later. Journals, video, and just plain old talking/collaboration….gives me way more information about myself and my students.
Dean Shareski: If someone submits something at the end of the course, it penalizing the other students who did not have a chance to learn from that student. If assessment is really FOR learning, it must occur with enough time for the learner and others to learn from it. Otherwise we’re just talking about evaluation which is really not the same thing.”
Julià Minguillón: when your assignment is about solving some exercises with only one possible answer, you cannot allow such a solution to be posted and discussed; if you are more in a discussion or debate-based answer, then it is possible to take care of who is answering first, who is adding real comments and who is just copying and pasting, we are indeed already doing that…
Leigh Blackall (very detailed post): What we are working out now is managing the increased numbers of informal enrollments so that they are not an unreasonable drain on facilitator resources that are not yet paid for. For this we have found it acceptable to have both formal and informal participants starting and moving through at the same time. So far we have not noticed a drop in formal enrollments.
Elena: We’re changing our point of view: we’re telling them that we grade not only the final product (the video) but the amount of social conversation it triggers. This way they know that if they upload their stuff at the very last minute, chances are they won’t get that many comments from the other side (MIT or UPV) than those who upload their assignments long before the deadline. We want to compare results, so we can back it up with figures, but we can see there’s a change in their attitude.
Gardner: I tried something along these lines in my Film, Text, and Culture class in summer 06 and spring 07 when I had students post their final papers online *and* for the second half of these papers cite and link to specific blog posts their peers had written earlier in the term. I’ve spoken about this assignment several times but I should probably blog about it at length–aligning all the parts is a bit tricky to understand (and of course tricky to do as well). I’m certainly not satisfied with all the bits and pieces. For one thing, I didn’t do any marginal commentary on the essays; instead, I offered a paragraph-long narrative evaluation, which didn’t feel like quite enough to me. On the other hand, the folks who did well with the assignment did *extremely* well, and there were more of them than usual. Or so it seemed to me.
As ever, I am humbled by the richness of the discourse my community affords me. Thanks to all of you, and apologies for not according your contributions with the attention they deserve.