Thought on Teaching – 2/24/2012 – Grading the first assignment

OK, so the first major assignment is coming in, and so I am just starting to grade them.  It’s always an interesting point when you get to see the first major set of assignments from a group of students.  All they’ve had to this point are some chapter quizzes to keep them moderately honest in what work they are doing for the class, but here at the third of the way through point, the real stuff is coming due.  I have multiple writing assignments over the course of the semester (6 for the online class and 8 for the hybrid class), and these are the first written ones.  So, not only am I seeing their work for the first time, a lot of them are doing real work for me for the first time here.  For each of us, this is the point where the class really starts.  This is especially true for the class that I just finished grading.  I teach the two halves of the American history survey, and so in the spring, I mostly teach the second half.  However, I do have one online class that is the first half.  Whereas many of the students in my second half class are ones that I’ve had before, all of those in my first half are new to me.  So, it really is a new experience all the way around.

What they had to do was work through a Critical Mission within the Connect History system associated with our textbook.  There were two written assignments out of that.  The Critical Mission had them take on the role of an advisor to Moctezuma as Cortez and his men are approaching.  The students have to advise Moctezuma on whether to take a militant approach to Cortez or whether to greet him peacefully.  The students are given evidence to work with for it, and they have to put together an argument using the evidence.  Anyway, the details aren’t all that relevant, but it does give you the idea of what the students are doing for me.  So, I graded their two submissions and discussion forum over last night and this morning, getting all of those out to them early this morning.

It is interesting to see how it goes.  First of all, there were 30 people in the class when we started.  We are down to 26 now with drops by this point.  Of those, 4 have not logged into the classroom in over 14 days, so they are also not really counted.  Including those, 11 did not turn anything in for this project, despite multiple reminders throughout the weeks leading up to the project.  So, of 30 that I started with, I actually graded 15 projects.  The overall results were pretty good for a first assignment.  I mean only one or two really hit the mark completely with regards to my expectations, but the results were good overall.  What I was actually most impressed with was the discussion participation.  I give them a couple of topic options to write on, and generally they give 2-3 sentences at most on the first time out in an online discussion.  Instead, here I got long thoughtful discussions with replies that showed they actually had read the other person’s writing and had thought about it.  It was impressive for a class of people that have not had me or known my expectations before this point.

I guess I really don’t know what else to say about it.  Nothing all that profound here at all, just wanted to share what was a pretty decent feeling for me about an assignment.  Yes, so many people didn’t do much of anything on it, but those who did participate actually turned out a good product.  That is always gratifying, as it makes me feel like I put together a good class with good instructions if they were able to succeed like that.

P.S. I apologize if this is a bit rambling in nature.  I’ve been doing a few other things and keep coming back and adding a sentence or two at a time.  So, if it’s disconnected and disjointed, that’s the reason.  I’m not going to go back and read over because I’m tired and ready for bed, so everyone will have to take this one as it is.  Talk to you tomorrow.

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About Scott Williams

I am an educator, community-college instructor, thinker, husband, parent of three, student of life, owner of a parrot, player of video games, voracious reader, restless wanderer, and all around guy.

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