Saturday, April 4, 2009

Assignment Feedback

This spring I shared several assignments (timelines, webliography, movie review and more) that encourage student originality, creativity, and allow them to select topics that are most interesting and relevant to them. These flexible assignments still meet the Colorado Common Course Outcomes. When designing a course, I start by creating a course map that aligns resource materials, assignments, discussions, and formative and summative assessments with outcomes. Sometimes, there are outcomes that are vague or difficult to meet in the online classroom. However after brainstorming, some very interesting and engaging assignments for students usually result.

What do the students think about these assignments? Each semester, I ask students for candid feedback regarding the assignments, assessments, materials in the course, discussions, and overall course design. I use this feedback to improve the course and stay current with the mood and needs of the students. The feedback this semester regarding the new assignments is overwhelmingly positive. Students appreciated the break from stagnant essay response assignments. They enjoyed and remained more interested in the course by having a variety of assignments. I had less students request permission to turn in work late. While I don't have specific statistics to explain why, I believe it is in part a result of not getting bored and burned out with similar assignments. Students also reported that they learned more and felt more challenged from assignments like the timeline and the movie review than from writing a typical essay response on the same topic. When asked which assignment was their favorite, some students shockingly said they liked them all. However, I did have a group report that the timeline assignment was their favorite. This is interesting because it broke the most from the traditional mold of essay assignments by requiring strong organization and encouraged the use of Web 2.0 technology.

Was I satisfied with the quality of their work? After semesters of grading responses to essays and being disappointed that students did not seem move beyond the knowledge level to the higher analysis and synthesis levels, these assignments seemed to demonstrate higher levels of Bloom’s and allowed me to better evaluate student learning. The design of these assignments required a strong understanding at the knowledge level but better encouraged analysis and synthesis.

What did I learn? Besides being pleased with the overall quality of the completed assignments, I learned that these assignments are more challenging to grade because of the unique way each student may interpret the instructions. Therefore, the assignments require detailed expectations and elaborate rubrics. I also learned that providing an optional discussion forum for students to ask questions about each assignment of myself and classmates provided some formative feedback and reduced stress and confusion for students. Additionally, even those who never posted to the study hall discussions benefited from the examples, instructions, and questions posted there.


freelandkb said...

I have a film analysis and timeline assignment in my online class, but you have given me some great ideas about how to improve those assignments (I am quite excited about I will be spending some time looking through your other assignments at length too--the scavenger hunt looks like something I would love to incorporate into my classes. Thank you for the wonderful ideas!

Karen Kaemmerling said...

Glad you like some of the ideas in this blog, please share your ideas here too.