In pursuit of creating the coolest writing assignment ever

As I review and mark students’ weekly blogs, I am constantly thinking about the changes I need to make to my evaluation methods to help students write even better posts.

Students seem to find checklists easier to use than rubrics.

I’m realizing that next year’s evaluation checklist must have a pass-fail stipulation right at the top that will ask whether the student has written about a lesson learned in class. If not, the blog will receive a zero. There will no longer be the option to write about outside issues unless students can link those issues to something they learned in class that week.

This will force students to spend more time thinking about what they are learning from teachers about advertising- and marketing-related issues.

It sounds like a harsh measure, but one of the big goals of the assignment is to get students to reflect on what they are learning in class.  They’re not doing that if they’re musing about the latest viral YouTube video without any theoretical knowledge of viral marketing behind them (my own minor mountain biking viral video is embedded below). Indeed, it may take a few months in our program before students can readily apply their lessons to advertising and marketing campaigns they’re seeing in the outside world.

A portion of the blog mark will also go towards demonstrating relevance. I’ll make sure I spend more time in class explaining what this means and then I’ll expect students to alert the reader high up in their post as to why they are writing about a particular subject in that particular week.

The Frontenac News captured this photo of Kathy during a 2010 marketing seminar.

For example, if they are writing about shotgun marketing, students must explain that they are doing so because they learned about it in instructor Kathy Patterson’s Marketing Strategies class.

I’ll also put heavy emphasis on using evidence to back up claims and opinions. Currently, only two marks out of 20 count for providing cited evidence. I’ll spend more time in our blogging lesson at the beginning of the semester explaining how and when to use evidence and examples to make one’s claims credible—and how to cite that evidence in a blog.

Both of the above measures will help students hone their critical writing and thinking skills.

Having said all this, I’m pretty happy with the checklist.

Last year, I used a complex rubric. I found that students had difficulty using it to ensure they’d covered all their bases while writing their own blogs. Indeed, last year I created a checklist from the rubric to help students because the rubric was too hard to use. This checklist evolved into today’s evaluation checklist that both teachers and students use to critique student blogs.

I’m also happy with the results of the blogging assignment because it’s fulfilling three of my crucial writing teacher mandates: it’s helping students to understand and use clean formatting, it’s reminding them to thoroughly proofread their writing, and it’s showing them how to use their words—not exclamation marks—to bring power to their prose.

This is the checklist for this year’s blogs. It needs work.

While marking their first paper assignment last weekend, I was gratified to see that students have translated their blog-learned writing and formatting skills into their papers.

That’s why I’ve decided that a similar blogging assignment will be a critical component of a second-year writing communications course I’m developing for second-year Marketing students for January. Employers have told us the program’s graduates need better writing, formatting, and research skills.

Second-year Marketing students have already chosen where they will do their work placements in April. So their end-of-term assignment in my class will see them write a report on how the organization where they will do their placement fits into the industry.

To help them with their research and to hone their writing and formatting abilities, their blogs will be weekly examinations of that industry so they will all be minor industry experts by the time they begin their placements.

So capably armed, I hope they’ll make an impression on those employers like no other placement student before them.

Pretty cool, eh? Now I just have to figure out how to find the time to make it all happen.

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About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
This entry was posted in adult education, Course design, Critical Thinking, Reflective Practice, Transformative learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to In pursuit of creating the coolest writing assignment ever

  1. Pingback: Choosing the top student blogs of the week gets tougher | Teaching Teacher

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