The agony and the ecstasy of the perfect assignment

Something’s got to give.

It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday as I write this post for Week 4 of my advertising students’ weekly blogging assignment.

I spent most of yesterday marking blogs and other work and I’ll spend a good part of today marking and preparing for classes next week. Because I got up extra early, I might even get through most of the administrative work that’s required in my role as a college teacher.

All work and no play is making Frank a very dull boy

All work and no play is making Frank a very dull boy

I’m a dad. I’m a full-time student studying towards a Masters in Adult Education. I run a writing and editing business on the side. And I’m a part-time teacher.


That means that I should have plenty of time for other things besides teaching, like my family; my studies; my business and; of course, my fitness.

But I don’t.

So how am I going to survive? I can’t cut back on the blog assignment. After all, it’s the most awesome learning experience I can give to my Advertising Marketing Communications students.

Here’s what they have to do for it in a nutshell: They must use WordPress to write a weekly blog post that reflects on the lessons they are learning about advertising and marketing in their classes.  They have to follow a basic checklist that requires them to back up their points with evidence and examples and credit the sources of their evidence. And they have to embed an image and social media and employ some basic business writing rules to make sure their blogs look nice.

As part of the assignment, they must also evaluate a classmate’s blog each week. I randomly evaluate four of their eight posts and pick out their biggest writing challenges. They must then write a total of five grammar diary reports explaining each error, fixing it, and providing a strategy for avoiding that error in the future.

Students don’t all love the assignment, but those who embrace it grow hugely in many ways:

  1. They become better writers as I or their classmates—using our checklist—evaluate their writing each week.
  2. They reflect on their lessons and, therefore, often gain a deeper understanding of those lessons.
  3. They learn basic business document formatting skills while practising them weekly in their blogs.
  4. They practise critical thinking and reflective learning.
  5. They learn to use evidence to back up their claims and to give credit to the sources of their evidence, thereby laying the foundations for learning academic-style referencing.
  6. They learn to use WordPress, a blogging tool that employers have told us they expect our students to know.
  7. They learn to evaluate one another’s work and provide positive critical feedback.

Hands down, it’s the ultimate writing assignment.

But it’s killing me.

So this is what I’m going to do: From here on in, I will incorporate almost all of my advertising students’ assignments into the blog. For example, next week, instead of giving students a separate ad critique assignment, they will write the critique (we call it an “ad report”) as a post.

It’s just one reduction in my workload, but it’ll do for now.


Because something has got to give.


If you’ve been following my weekly top 10-ish list of first-year student blogs, they are below. Before I show them to you, please take note that I had 22 favourite blogs from which I had to choose about 10 this morning. It was not easy. Indeed, this week, my Top 10 list is actually 13.

If you enjoy any of these posts, be sure to comment on them, “like” them, and share them. It will mean a lot to these wonderful students. I promise some of them will make you think differently, teach you something new, or send you into fits of laughter (thanks, Alyssa, Aaron, and Dalton).

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 7.36.46 AMKassandra DeGuire describes how our postal codes say a lot about us and are a powerful tool used by advertisers to target us. See if Prizm’s profile of your neighbourhood is accurate by clicking the link on Kassandra’s blog.

Eloquent writer Brent Goff reveals how senior citizens are quickly becoming big social media consumers and describes the growing opportunity for online advertisers.

Alyssa Helmer will put a smile on your face in her quirky Week 4 post on oxymorons, drawn from a lesson in my Writing for Marketing class on figurative language.

Dalton Hadwen talks “sheet” in his Week 4 post, apparently inspired by our figurative language lesson. This man is hilarious every week.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 7.49.30 AMKatie Hill explores the many demographic groups targeted by advertisers and reveals the buying habits of each group.

Samantha Lawlor explores the not-so-ethical world of typosquatting. I introduced the term during my evaluating online sources lesson, but Sam taught me a few things in her post here. Thanks, Sam!

Jason Manuge shares his frustration about how product placement skews realism in one of his favourite television shows: The Walking Dead.

Chantal Lauzon talks about how product placement is the perfect solution for advertisers who are losing some of the traditional mediums on which to display their ads.

Victoria Butler describes how advertisers are using inspirational quotes to sell product.

What was all the purple about on Oct. 17? Find out by reading Ciera Jones’ latest post.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 7.58.16 AMKelsey Jeffries explores our obsession with celebrities and the inexplicable power they have over many of us.

In her funny Who do they think we are?!?! post, Aaron Hartman questions whether advertisers have effectively chosen their target market in the public busses she rides to campus.

Adam Wemp laments about how easy it is for advertisers to target his own demographic group: Generation X.


About teachingteacher

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

2 Responses to The agony and the ecstasy of the perfect assignment

  1. Kassandra Deguire says:

    I miss your class and our blog assignment, believe it or not.

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