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Via a Boston Globe article, check out this site of 60-second videos introducing classic (and/or oft-assigned) novels. Not only do these seem like useful introductions, they also might serve as models for students to compile and film their own such recaps.Also included is a (again short) video series on steps for writing a lit crit paper, with the hopeful title "How to Write a Paper that Won't Put Your Teacher to Sleep."
After six years of struggling with the research paper requirement for Comp 1 (conventional topics, paragraphs patchworked to incoherence), I'm trying a new approach, inspired by the format of Harper's Annotation section. (Here's an example that's freely available--there are many with more accessible subject matter, but you can see the basic layout: an image or visual artifact of some sort surrounded by discrete text boxes, aka paragraphs, filled with researched info.)
The traditional argumentative research paper (esp. as a first research assignment), I'm hypothesizing, is much too complex, so I'm separating out argument from research in a developmental sequence that goes something like this (a work in progress this semester still):
I had students first write a personal essay (btw, if you haven't seen it already, check out Clancy'slist of reasons for giving for such an assignment) and then an ethnography.
Essay 3 is an argument based on personal experience and observation (arguing against the conventional view of an object, activity, abstraction), focusing on clear statement of thesis and cookie-cutterish development pattern of series of reasons each developed into paragraph.
The Annotation assignment (I encouraged students to select images that tied to their personal interests) will focus on formulating research questions, finding sources, and integrating info into coherent paragraphs (without having to sustain at the same time the thread of an argument). Paragraph coherence seems to vanish with the argumentative research paper, so I'm hoping the emphasis on paragraphing with these discrete sub-topics will help.
For the last essay I plan to give pairs of articles that present opposing views (so that I have control of topics, to avoid the too-familiar) and ask students to do a text-wrestling synthesis, with a somewhat scaled down amt. of research to try to reconcile contradictions of fact.
Question(s): What nonargumentative research projects have you used, and how do you think they support students' cognitive development?
Picking up from Jason's recent wiki post, I meant to offer a few particulars about how and why I've been using wikis in comp class. The ideas of social construction and knowledge-building by consensus that stem from how wikipedia functions need not apply to the wiki as used in the classroom. (I'll offer that as hypothesis, anyway.) The analogy I'd suggest is the electronic bulletin board.
I first used wikis a couple semesters ago as the space for research groups (four or five students per group) to collect up entries for an annotated bib assignment. Students selected first and second choices from a list we'd brainstormed together; I made assignments, trying to even out numbers and skill levels in each group. Students then had to decide how to divide up the workload of locating both Internet and database articles, providing a very brief (couple sentence) summary, and evaluating with specific evidence of amount of usable material, authority and objectivity of author (the usual criteria I write on the board sixteen times a semester). Using the wiki allowed students to post hyperlinks to articles, so that others in the group could check out summary and evaluation. I posted comments and questions on esp. strong or weak entries (using some distinctive color--I had asked students as well to type their name in a unique color so that they, and I, could tell who had written what). Of course, I could have done a similar thing in google docs, but the public nature of the wiki allowed students to look as well at the work of other groups, and a later writing assignment allowed students to draw sources from either their own research wiki or another group's.
A second way I've used the wikis just this semester involves my standard beginning-of-the-semester assignment the classmate snapshot. (Briefly, students interview each other in order to write a sharply detailed--in theory--paragraph that provides a snapshot of their subject's life.) In the past, using course management software, I have asked students to post these on the discussion board provided, but the wiki is a much cleaner interface, with snapshots all appearing on the same page (none of that cumbersome clicking in and out of posts). And because I'm using course blogs, it was an easy matter give students hyperlinks to the wikis I had set up (one for each of my classes).
In short, I've been using wikis not for their wikipedia-like possibilities for collaborative work (several students producing one joint project, like many sculptors moving over a large piece of sculpture), but rather for their convenience (in terms of being able to hyperlink), their simplicity of navigation, and their public nature (for helping to build community).
Your question(s), then: With what types of assignments have you used wikis? Why wikis, rather than some other format? If you haven't used wikis, why not?
While we're on the subject of the research paper/process, (if you haven't seen it already) go read Derek's post on the purpose and function of annotated bib, or, as he puts it, "how to (also whether to) reconcile rigor with pleasure in the processes of collection and annotation." It's a thought-provoking few paragraphs.
To ease into this thinking-stuff, I started the same way my students do, with a google search; UNC-Chapel Hill's page was the most complete description of the standard assignment that I could find in a few minutes' search. I've been trying to tease apart the problematic issues Derek identifies:
How does the A. B. fit into the research paper assignment? Derek here, in a comment:
So I like the side of the annotated bib that is about urging students to be more fully cognizant of productive ways of handling sources, the wide range of possible materials they might bring aboard, and so on. Yet it seems like--all the same--the annotated bib can become this tame aside, something that domesticates the research rather than breathing life into it (which is, ideally, one of the things it might do.)
Can the A. B. assignment be used to stimulate rather than deaden student interest? How does topic choice figure in here? I'm not at all convinced that allowing the student free choice of topic will lead to the "passionate, geeky collector" Derek envisions nor that instructor-assigned topics will preclude the development of such enlivened curiosity. When allowed free (sort of) choice of topic, many of my students still gravitate towards the conventional issues that even they are not truly interested in, whereas I think I have (on occasion) managed to suggest research questions that do end up engaging students (in much the same way that a teacher might suggest a book that ends up appealing to a reluctant reader). Certainly, though, the fostering of such curiosity is a central part of what we should be doing, or trying to do. (Not always an easy task, like trying to foster a love of butterfly collecting in a student who doesn't much like the outdoors, as I was reminded the other day in an after-class conversation with a student who readily admitted that he didn't much like to read).
How should this A. B. be assessed? I'll give a few links to rubrics here (while I continue to incubate my reservations-about-rubics post-to-come): here's one from Rebecca Martin of Clark College and here an interesting article about the A. B. in an undergraduate biology course (rubric via supplementary material link).
So I have been thinking about why I have used the A. B. assignment. I don't use it every semester, but I did last semester, as a group project in which 3 or 4 students posted onto a wiki Internet or database sources (as links) along with several-sentence summaries and evaluations. (Students then wrote analytical papers, looking at the sources of disagreement over an issue, using the sources found by their own or another group.) I guess I would say that my purposes in using A. B.s are to foreground the locating and evaluating of sources and to give students much-needed practice in picking out the main position taken by an author.
This semester I'm trying a different sort of annotation in service of the research paper (details to come).
Mild-mannered by nature, I'm working on developing a more provocative teaching-persona. This passage from Lewis H. Lapham's Notebook column "Mudville" (Harper's March 2008) struck me as wonderfully start, for class discussion or written response:
What else is the American dream if not the theory and practice of self-invention? How otherwise define the American way of life if not as a ceaseless effort to boost performance, hype the message, enhance the product? Deny an aging outfielder the right to inject himself with human-growth hormone, and what does one say to the elderly philanthropist who steps out of an evening with a penile implant and a flower in his lapel? To the lady in distress shopping around for a nose like the one she saw advertised in a painting by Botticelli? To the distracted child restored to his study of the multiplication tables with a therapeutic jolt of Ritalin? To the stationary herds of industrial-strength cows so heavily doped with bovine-growth hormone that they require massive infusions of antibiotic to survive the otherwise lethal atmospheres of their breeding pens?
Via Arts & Letters Daily comes word of Doug Campbell and Denis Dutton's new website on global warming. It looks like a rich source of material for a themed course on the subject, but I'm more interested in its potential as a template for an informational website on a controversial issue. Maybe a good group project in a composition class??
In watching that (free!) Bedford DVD Take 20, I was struck by how many writing teachers mentioned visual literacy in response to the question "What's next for writing teachers?" That prompted my own blog post on Words and Pictures. The questions I'd like to pose here: how do you use images in yr FYC classes and what's yr rationale for doing so?
I read Peter Elbow’s “Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience” last week (part of my ongoing attempt to catch up with two decades of comp studies), and it reminded me of a question I wanted to pose. Or rather an argumentative stance I wanted to try out: For all (much of?) the rhet-talk about genre, purpose, and audience, what we're really doing is asking students to write "school-type" essays, aimed at getting a good grade and addressed to a vaguely defined "group of people like yr classmates" (but we never quite mean that exactly--if we did, we'd get a text-messaged string; it's something more like an audience of cloned teacher-turned-eighteen-year-olds). I suppose the corresponding question version, restricted to audience, would go something like this: to what extent do yr assignments invite or require students to consider an audience beyond the standard "your peers"? Do you think it's important that students try out different audiences? Or is the main task to get them comfortable addressing an "academic" audience? How much do time constraints affect yr approach?
(Elbow's essay raises other interesting questions about audience, but I'll save those for another day...)