Thinking through some things…
I followed the departmental requirements (one source paper, two source paper, annotated bibliography, research paper with multiple sources).
Overall those worked out fairly well. I was able to scaffold assignments and really keep students moving along with the process.
For the two-source paper, I decided to give them practice reading a scholarly and a popular source. This way I could give them feedback on what those were and they could learn to read them with less pressure than during the research paper.
The students had to use two sources, a scholarly source and a popular one. I have seen those and helped them find a scholarly source if they needed one.
They could write on anything they wanted to. They had to have a thesis sentence which mapped out their topic. They needed topic sentences for all their non-concluding and non-introductory paragraphs.
Every one of the students (except one senior and a student dealing with depression) have turned in either (or both) a 500-word version of part of the paper and a 1500-word version of the full thing.
All of those, except one, had good compare/contrast information. The one had a good idea, but used no sources and didn’t explain how his points connected to his thesis.
Most of the students needed transitions, rather than just listing their ideas. I found out today from one student that he had no idea what that meant. I’ve explained it in class several times, but if he doesn’t know, perhaps I need to try to explain it another way. (I have used map and directions and machine gun analogies.)
A few students had a good thesis, but didn’t follow it at all. Their compare/contrast was good, but didn’t match their thesis. I suggested it would be easier to revise their thesis.
There were four or five students who had good ideas, but didn’t appear to me (in my second three-minute, in-class look) to completely develop them, so I wrote on their papers that I thought it might be a good idea to go to the Writing Center. They went, but did not receive the help I was hoping for.
I wanted students to be working on their compare/contrast papers as they went along.
I told the students that if they wrote the papers early I would look at them during my office hours and review the papers with the students. I came in for additional office hours for at least three students who have classes during all of my office hours. One student came in three times, all of which were outside my normal office hours. I saw eight in two days and others on a different two days.
Even though I walk them through the process of finding a scholarly paper, understanding what a scholarly resource is can be difficult. They will often look for an “easy way” out of the assignment.
Students brought in what they thought were scholarly resources and I gave feedback on them in class, while others were reading and taking notes. I think this was very helpful for the students, since they didn’t finish reading a source which did not qualify as scholarly for this project.
Next class I want to add a scholarly resource that we read as a class to prepare for the second paper. That will give the students both the experience of reading a scholarly source and the understanding of how such things work.
The final is always up in the air, since I don’t get to create it and have little say in it as a new faculty member. How do I help prepare my students for the final, when I don’t know what exactly it will cover?
For the last several years there has always been at least one compare/contrast question on the final. Having the students write the two-source paper as a compare/contrast was a good way to prepare students for this part of the exam.
To have the students read four scholarly and four popular sources, summarize the sources (without plagiarism), explain how they intended to use the individual sources in their papers, and include relevant quotes.
Every student still attending class created an annotated bibliography. All but one of those included all eight sources. Only six of those did not receive an A as a final grade.
When I teach the annotated bibliography again I want to do two things differently.
First, I want to spend more time grading/marking/editing their first scholarly annotation. I want to have them come in and do a conference regarding what they are doing well and what they are doing poorly. And I want to go over their other sources with them during those conferences to make sure that they are appropriate.
Second, I want to remind the students of the value of the annotated bibliography after they have started working on it. Perhaps I can do this after all the first two scholarly works are done. This is because, while I tell them beforehand, they don’t remember until they are actually involved in the project. So I need to tell them again after they are immersed.
To tell them:
1. The annotated bibliography is intended to make sure that their bibliography is perfectly correct for the research paper.
2. The annotated bibliography is intended to serve as a vehicle for making sure that they get their research done.
3. The annotated bibliography is intended to serve as a memory device for their research. They will have read all the articles and when they can’t remember which one said X, they will be able to look at their annotated bibliography in order to figure it out and thus not have to reread all the sources.
4. The annotated bibliography will help the students determine the direction of their research papers, since they have to articulate how the article they are annotating will be useful to the research paper. This means that when they have to turn in an RA on their research paper, they will already have done the hard part of the work (the thinking section).
5. The annotated bibliography, with its relevant quotes, will allow them to quote from sources without having to re-read to find all the good quotes. It encourages them to list relevant quotes as they are reading the source, when the ideas are fresh in their minds. This also means that when they are doing their RA, they will already a) have quotes and b) know how to cite them correctly.
6. The annotated bibliography is the research phase of the research paper. It is the time to figure out what you are doing with the research paper so that the writing of the paper is significantly easier, because you have already done so much of the thinking and organizing.
Getting the students to turn the annotated bibliographies back in with any additional source added. Since this was not a major grade, they were not highly motivated.
Something that worked very well was explaining why they had to turn in two copies of their papers and the annotated bibliographies (with bibs for any works they added included). Describing the SACS accreditation, and mentioning Tech’s probation status after not having sufficient proof that their students had met the learning objectives, motivated the students to get it done and also caused them to ask what our present accreditation status was. I was able to tell them that it is excellent, which it is, thanks to all the work by our committee and our professors.
Integrating technology into the classroom in a way that facilitates learning, especially writing, and does not detract from that aspect of the process.
The digital presentations have turned out amazingly well overall. The students’ presentations were better than my original one, since I made sure to focus on the quality of the images they chose, since mine had a mixed level and that really impacted the strength of the video. The presentations were engaging and interesting and I think that students were engaged by the experience.
I followed the suggestions I learned at CCTE this year and integrated the digital presentation into the middle of the research writing phase. Several students mentioned that they wanted to change the focus of their research, having created the digital presentation. This was exactly what the presenters had said would happen. I look forward to being able to grade better research papers as a result.
Students have figured out that the version due before the final is not getting a grade and so they are not doing the work. This means that some students come in with only the four pages they wrote as a rough draft the week before as their entire twelve-page paper (when it is due in two more days).
To do: Next semester I am going to give 5% of the research grade to the first version. There will only be 3 possible grades. They will be
looks pretty good,
looks tolerable, or
Those grades will be recorded as 90, 70, or 50. I hope that doing this will help the students actually work on a rough draft that is worth something–even if it means that I have to grade them after class in order to give them any meaningful feedback at all. I will replace the 90% with a higher grade if one is earned on the actual paper. I will not replace either of the other grades.