Sunday, October 31, 2010

Turning over a new leaf

This past Monday, I administered the midterm exam to my students and when I graded it later in the week, I became very alarmed. The whole class did quite poorly which surprised me very much as their analysis papers were quite strong. I'm still baffled as to why this happened, since we had a review session, completed Venn diagram -which I asked students to post on the class blog and 20 of the 22 students did so-and the directions, prompts and leading questions I composed for the midterm were an easy outline to follow. In other words, the exam was an easy A as even if student did not do the readings and only attended class/listened to class discussions. So I've decided, and this is partially a result of a conversation I had with Dr. X during Friday's Community 2.0 seminar meeting, to administer the final exam in a computer lab and give students an option of either typing or writing the final essay.
Is anyone else having a similar issue, where students' writing seems to be much weaker on formal assignments than what they post on the class blog/wiki/Ning?
But I am very pleased to report that my students who have connected with Prof. Matsuuchi's LRC 103 students are actually communicating via e-mail and helping each other with research projects. While the successful connection rate is not overwhelming, of the 12 students who actually did pair up with research advisers(LRC 103 students), about 6 or 7 are actively working together and asking for advice on research sources.


  1. may have to do with the assignment per se, since you had them prep before. Or it may be the in-class writing (it's quite different from out-of-class).

    But to answer your question--yes--remember Rich had the same issue of a contrast between their online writing and the research paper? I think that formal discourse just kills them...

    Great job on your connection! I choose to see it as 6-7 students that would have not otherwise gotten this help or connected with other students over work :-)

  2. I see Doctor X re-iterated my point. The basic problem I think is that students have no end of texting and low-stakes writing in their lives. 'Writing from sources' continues to be an alien, difficult discourse for many of my students. I've been trying to get the blog assignments to mimic some of the conventions of 'formal' writing--use a quote, reflect on that, etc. There are slightly more formal rules, right? Naturally, academic writing is becoming more like blogs--and there are popular academic blogs, and many good ones for a popular audience, but I still get students to think like college-level writers. (And I really should say as a journalist and creative writer--I just placed a piece of fiction in a journal this month!--I tell my students all the time that there are many, many kinds of terrific writing beyond the formal academic essay. However, in ENG 101, for example, the rules are a little different that the all-pervasive confessional mode, which they are ultimately much more comfortable with....