If you were to ask 100 teachers to name the least favourite aspect of their jobs, 85 percent would probably tell you it’s marking students’ homework.
Well, I hate to sound like a cocky upstart (totally lying here—I’m a cheeky sod), but that may be because they design assignments that don’t inspire students to create interesting work.
Sure, there will always be a few students who create crap because they are in the wrong program and aren’t putting in the effort or are not up to the task for one reason or another (and I grit my teeth and wonder where their minds were in class all those hours).
But, on the whole, I don’t mind marking.
And sometimes I love it—even if the sheer volume can be daunting and exhausting.
Let me explain.
I’m going to be marking about 50 new blogs this weekend by my first-year Advertising students. It’ll take up most of my weekend. I’ll be wiped by Monday.
If you’re a teacher reading this, your reaction is probably something like, “Are you frigging crazy? Get a life, Frank!”
Maybe I am nuts. But this is an assignment that’s actually fun and exciting to mark. To understand why this is so, allow me to explain the assignment’s learning goals.The assignment has many. The main goal is to help students improve their writing and document-formatting skills under the critical eye of a professional editor (that’d be me). The ultimate goal is to get students to start creating their personal brand to prepare for the job hunt. Indeed, some students will be able to use their blogs in their portfolios to showcase to employers their personal growth, their writing and critical thinking skills, their social media savvy, and their creativity.
To ensure students keep blogging until they graduate, I’ve collaborated with three other teachers who will also assign blogging in their courses over the next three years.
Over the next eight weeks, my students will write weekly blogs reflecting critically on what they are learning in classes. By writing about the lesson topics that most interest them, we’ll be adding new depth to their learning experience.
Lastly, employers have also told us they expect students to be WordPress-competent and social-media savvy, so this assignment integrates the use of social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Probably the coolest thing for me is that I get to learn about my students: who they are, how they’re doing, how they think, what they care about, and what they’re good at.
Connection with one’s students! Could any teacher ask for anything more?Last year’s group of first-years produced some incredible work. Indeed, probably more than a dozen created professional-quality blogs. Here are two that I still read regularly:
At the same time, the instructors of last year’s first-years told me that they actually saw sizeable improvements in student writing.
I’m sure this blog writing assignment—writing in the public forum, writing often, and the feedback they received regularly from me—played a big role in this improvement.This year, students will be looking even more critically at their own writing and they’re going to get even more feedback. They must also investigate a writing challenge I identify in five of their blog posts in a report form I created called the Grammar Diary Report. Students must also evaluate a different student’s blog post each week. This means all bloggers will have an audience other than their teacher.
The first blog posts are due today at midnight, and tomorrow morning I’ll begin wading into them with my stack of marking checklists.
But instead of approaching “the pile” with dread, I’ll be doing it with anticipation.
After all, this is an assignment that matters.
This is a writing assignment that does what it’s supposed to do and more—it engages learners, it helps them to become better writers, and it gives them the chance to add to their career portfolio toolbox. Oh, and it helps to creates an authentic and ongoing connection with their instructor.
What else could a teacher ask for?
Bring on the marking!
Below is a Youtube video that previews most of the blogs that students created last year.