Friday, September 28, 2007


So here's a dumb thing I did with one of my classes this semester. I've assigned presentations to the class, in which each student makes one brief presentation and turns in a 1-2 page paper on his/her topic. To incorporate that material more thoroughly into the course, I'm including those topics as ID questions on the exam, and have posted them on the online course page (the idea being that students not only have to learn the basics of the topics presented, but explain how they serve as examples for larger themes in the course).

I did this with a previous class, and it worked quite well. What I didn't think of, though, is what to do if the papers are lousy. The in-class presentations have all been fine, so what the students have seen is good, but several of the written papers don't use proper footnotes, have poorly chosen bibliographies, use Internet sources when they were instructed not to, and other such problems.

Had I caught this early enough, I suppose I could have required the students to rewrite the papers before posting them. But there's nothing about that in the syllabus or assignment description, and I posted the first few before realizing that there were enough problems in them to be sticky. (The content is reasonably good for all of them, but I just don't want the other students using them as models for their own work.)

So for now I'm just putting minimal editorial comments when necessary [Prof's note: this isn't the proper format for footnotes], and I think I'll address this to the class as a whole in our next session. I needed to go ahead and post them, since the first exam is coming up fairly soon, but I'm not particularly happy with the situation overall. Usually I'm pretty good at imagining all the things that could go wrong with an assignment before I implement it, but I really missed the ball on this one.

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