Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stealth Class Connection

From the beginning of Community 2.0, the availability of a class on public domain has fascinated me the most. I have made a lot of connections where I and other instructors organized the logistics, whether be it with individual classes (Ximena, Magda, Jason) or with a couple of classes (as in the google groups discussion with Jason and Ximena). However, last semester I had success with an unscheduled, unannounced connection (when my students explored Magda’s student blogs and conducted a forum analysis) so I wanted to do the same. I decided that I wanted my ENG 99 students to be able to read essays from another class, so I created the following assignment.

First, I went through the practice essays Jason’s students had written for a particular set and chose three that demonstrated different types of essays that are common for ENG 99 developing writers. One that was weak on structure, one weak on focus, and one that was barely passing. I made sure that the barely passing one however would look less developed than the other two: while these two were lacking in focus and structure, they had a lot of generalities that made the students usually consider them good essays. I created links to these essays (calling them Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3) as well as to the prompt essay Jason had given hos students, and gave the following set of directions (whole link is here :
Blog 14: Learning from another ENG 99

First, read the text here:

Then read the three students essays below. Post 1:  Post 2:  Post 3:
make some notes: which of the three is the best? Why? What about it do you like? Did you learn something from reading it? Can you suggest any changes? Rank all three posts. Then post a blog titled "Blog 14: Learning from another ENG 99" where you argue why the post you chose if the best of the three. Use specific evidence to support your position and also discuss what you learned from it and if you could suggest any changes. Also give your ranks for the other two essays (second best, third).
Students were excited to read these essays, to look at other prompts, to read what other students do. I realized that ENG 99 with its ever-present pressure of the test creates a very insular experience for them, more so than other classes. They felt like being on a field trip or like actually visiting that other class by this activity. The discussion that ensued had more students engaged than is usually the case, while students were also very curious to find out what the intructor of the class thought of the three essays and their rankings (to date they do not know as that would take away from the reflection I wanted them to engage in as they were providing feedback). Of course I also realized that an experiment like that involves people/students/classes in the same discipline, so I wonder what one across disciplines will look like and what form it can take.

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of a "field trip" to the future :) I really think you are right that basic skills students often feel like they are on the wrong side of a the looking glass - I think letting them see the (hopefully near) future is a great way to put the process into perspective and to help them.

    Now that I'll be teaching the same course over again (for the 3x) next Spring, I'm going to assign each spanking-new 2012 student to a 2011 and 2011 virtual mentor so they can review the older students' blogs (and get a taste of the kind of the work they'll be doing all semester).