Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clean it up!

Despite being somewhat over-extended this semester, I had a goal to re-examine my assignments. My idealistic intent was to streamline my grading (avoid writing the same comment 125 times), re-focus my teaching in order to yield better work from the students on several projects. The idea was simply driven from an increasingly challenging schedule. As I get busier and have more new course preps, it is essential to manage my time more effectively.

I did a quick review of my instructional materials, lessons plans, rubrics/evaluations, and made a few notes about student issues/problems on assignments throughout the previous semesters. I realized quickly that a few assignments needed help.

The descriptions sounded fine (to me) when re-reading the syllabus, but the work I was getting wasn't what I anticipated or was lacking key elements. This issue was the driving force behind a complete re-examination of my assignments and I found out I didn't really know what I wanted on one particular assignment that students have struggled with. 

If you don't know what YOU want (as an outcome) from the assignment, the assignment descriptions, rubrics, and even lesson plans could feel murky to students.

Image from
A quick fix is to explore the primary outcomes of each assignment. Identify the skills/concepts you want the students to have and work backward to craft a rubric and your "teachables" leading up to the assignment. You can still leave a lot open to interpretation, to allow for student-driven direction, creativity, and variety, but you will find your descriptions are cleaner, more focused. Your evaluations/rubrics measure what you teach, and the assignment reinforces/tests the concepts and skills you taught. It cleans everything up nicely so the students can see a direct line from what is discussed in class to the actual assignment. Slowly work your way through your assignments and their ancillary materials to center them around the core skills/goals and make sure your grading matches your teaching.

This doesn't take much time and can end up SAVING you time when it comes to grading, teaching, and office hours/student emails.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting topic. After reading this, I will re-examine my practice to make sure the concepts and skills taught in class align with the assignments given to students.