of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Archive for the day “January 26, 2012”

First Assignments

I have been giving an assignment this week and telling students that I was not worried if they did then “right” or not.

As part of their work this semester, I am having students write in the public sphere by contributing to blogs.  In one class, I asked students to respond to a presentation given by Dr. Ethriam Brammer on “Emerging Latino Culture.”  In another class, I am asking students to write a blog entry inspired by either Fahrenheit 451 or Freaks.  This assignment would not be easy even if students were used to writing blogs, but given that this is the first time they have been asked to frame their writing in for this venue, the task is particularly difficult.

Students are rightly anxious about doing their assignments correctly.  But sometimes, the learning process does not require that the assignment be done “right” to be perfectly acceptable.  Sometimes effort really does count.

Simply by struggling to successfully complete their blog entries, students will learn a great deal.  Next week, when we discuss their work in class, they will hear how others approached the assignment and they will get additional ideas about what they might do in the future.  As a result of this exercise, students will be much better prepared to write their real blog entries later this semester.

By focusing on learning rather than being “right” the first time out, students are more apt to learn the material.  They might not get it the first time, but few of us can excel at a task the first time we attempt it.  By assuring students that they don’t have to be right, I am able to lessen the anxiety in their struggles.

Today we began the actual work for the Ocelot Scholars project.  I was very pleased with the work the students did and the number of ways they have begun approaching the subject of student success.  When I let students follow their interests, I can never be sure where they will take the assignment.  In today’s case, I feared that they would have similar approaches the to topic.  However, this was not the case.

I was surprised at the wide range of approaches that students took and how little duplication there was in the areas in which they began their research.

At this point, it is not possible for students to appreciate the implications of the work they did today.  But they are already laying the groundwork for success.


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