CustomizedAssignments: advice for instructors with too much free time Raymond McDaniel
Why customize?• Because you are bored with reading 22 versions of the same paper• Because your students are likewise bored• Because you want to reduce the possibility of plagiarism or lazy, automatic writing• Because you want your students to invest in their own work
Yeah, okay. But how?That’s a very good question.What follows is a short example of how Iapproached customization in one sectionof LHSP 125.
Step One Abstract ConcreteDraft an assignment thatlets you get to know thestudent‟s interests. Student X writes about a rock documentary he sawPrompt: with his sister, which heWrite about a work of art loved even though heor piece of entertainment didn‟t know much aboutto which you had a strong the guitarists it featured.response, but you aren‟tsure why.
Step Two Abstract Concrete Student X is curious about how popularDerive from the paper music evolves, anda set of the student‟s wonders about the roleinterests and concerns. of age and generation in the history of rock.
Step Three Abstract Concrete Point Student X to Greil Marcus, DeborahAssemble a media list Frost, The Sound ofappropriate to the the City, Thestudent‟s interests. Runaways, Almost Famous, PBS history of rock „n roll, etcetera.
Step Four Abstract Concrete Student X discovers Lester Bangs, The BestAssign student to American Musicdevelop her own Writing, The Lastannotated bibliography Waltz, Pitchfork, Don’tof sources relevant to Look Back, Westway toher project the World, Greg Tate and Jeff Chang. All by himself!
Step Five Abstract Concrete Student X decides to focus on the following questions: at whatUse the student‟s point did “rock „n roll” become “rock”? Whatpeers to generate was the role of musicfurther resources and journalism in thiscompelling questions transition? What does this say about how an art relates to its own past?
Step Six Abstract Concrete You know what an outline looks like. This is what Pikachu looks like:Assemble draftingteams to assist withoutline generation
Step Seven Abstract Concrete You know how to run class discussions. Pikachu is vexed!Devote class sessionsto regular progressreports, two studentsper class, so eachstudent learns from theprocess of the others!
Step Eight Abstract Concrete Pikachu is sleepy!Read very many verylong papers
Good News!Customized assignments… incorporate analysis, research and narrative into one mega-document! activate the student‟s personal interests and place them in an academic context! foster multi-modal understanding! reduce odds of plagiarism and lazy writing!
Bad News!Customized assignments… are a lot of work. no, really, a lot of work.
Customized Ray RayI‟ve assigned an eight-page initialinquiry paper and a subsequent 16 +page customized research paper.The papers I‟ve received include…
DUDE.• An investigation of the origins of Young Adult literature and the invention of adolescence• An argument about the Uncanny Valley and the evolution of animation from stop- motion to motion capture• An analysis of the role of passive voice in the existentialist novels of Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir• A study of revolution and popular culture