I have always borrowed an idea from narrative journalism for one of my W101 assignments, and asked my students to immerse themselves in an experience that is outside of their comfort zone. They could choose the experience; for some it was to go to a political club opposite of their inclination; or for a white student to go to Black Student Alliance; or for students to explore religions other than their own or, if they are not religious, to explore any religion.
In the past, when I was physically co-present with students in the classroom, I was able to “read the room” and get a pulse of where our learning community was. By this, I mean I was able to fairly quickly track my students’ understanding of an idea or topic by their body language and facial expressions, questions they asked each other that I would overhear, or questions asked for a simple show of hands.
In my WRI101, I want my students to understand how their writing process begins with reading. Gaining insight into this connection involves denaturalizing how they read and asking them to try out particular reading practices. To do so, I developed an exercise based on Peter Elbow’s believing game and the doubting game with an assigned text in my course.
I have taught a number of writing courses during my time at Denison. I have become a big fan of the writing workshop model. With a minimal amount of tech from the Google suite, this process transitioned very well to remote learning. Surprisingly, there are only three main ingredients:
Assign a prompt – I start with a detailed writing prompt that is often a response to a specific reading or video from a list I provide.
With the challenges of the hybrid model this semester, I was concerned about how to assess my students. Typical timed tests would be a challenge to deliver in a remote setting. Not only would such tests add considerable stress to my students lives (Is my connection stable? Do I have enough time? How do I ask questions?),
While many of us provide a research methods course for our majors, it seems students do not always enter such courses with zeal and enthusiasm. To help my students better relate to the material, when I remotely teach our research methods course this fall, our first assignment will focus on researching the self: a preliminary investigation.
“What if we realized the best way to ensure an effective educational system is not by standardizing our curricula and tests but by standardizing the opportunities available to all students?”
― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
Denison is a very resource rich campus – e-classrooms, smart boards, projectors, moveable desks, invited speakers – the list goes on.
A key part of my Sex and Gender in Society course is a semester long research paper. This project is scaffolded throughout the semester and involves several rounds of in-class peer review. With transition to remote learning, I needed a new strategy to incorporate this important component.
Enter Notebowl and Google Docs
This spring, I used a combination of Notebowl posts and Google Docs to continue the peer review process in the remote setting.
I have never been a fan of high-stakes assessment – students cramming a huge amount of work in a short amount of time for a test or project to satisfy a grade requirement. I found that prolonged, meaningful engagement with multiple low-stakes opportunities produces better and longer lasting results.
This notion is even more critical as we look into the fall.
I have always grappled with traditional high-stakes written exams. While they can evaluate certain types of understanding, I am always looking for alternative modes to assess what my students have learned and how they can apply that knowledge in novel ways.
The opportunity to engage in remote learning enables me to examine these issues through a fresh lens.