Sunday, June 14, 2009

School Projects

I had a different blog post in mind, but after an arduous weekend that included tears and frustration of helping my first grader do a school project on Giant Pandas, I decided to change my plans. Last weekend I learned that in one week we had to write a paper, do an art project illustrating their animal, and be prepared to present information to the class. I say we, because a 7 year old is not capable of doing the research on their own even if they have strong writing and reading skills, and the supplies for an art project must be acquired and assembled with adult supervision.

What does this have to do with this history blog? Assignment relevancy and instructor leadership! Letting our students pick a topic that interests them most and creating assignment guidelines that students can meet are essential basics to an assignment. In this assignment, the parents became the teacher guiding our seven year old through the process of research, writing, editing, and creating a final project. While we are actively involved in our daughter’s education, I wondered about parents who simply did not have time this week to take that role. Should the teacher really have lead students through this process during the school day? Would this have given the teacher the opportunity to monitor student’s ability and witness their personal growth? Should teachers in high school and early college education assume that students have certain skills rather than leading them to the final quality product? Rather than assuming that it is the student’s responsibility to find help if they need it, should we offer that support in our courses. Doesn’t ignoring this basic need open the door to plagiarism and other academic dishonesty? Shouldn’t instructors provide examples and other support to help students be successful? Some would argue that this is handholding, but I would argue we are leading students to a product they can be proud of and meets our expectations.

As a kid, I remember these assignments and that feeling of dread of loosing play time and other family weekend time when they were assigned. As a teacher, I can guess which objectives might be the goals with an assignment like this, and yet as a parent, I argue that those are not the objectives met. My daughter did not learn research skills though we tried, nor did she learn composition writing or reading skills though we tried. However as a family, we pulled together to support her which emphasized learning and education. She learned about the value of spreading the work out over a week and finishing what she started even when it wasn’t fun anymore. This evening after completing all her hard work, she feels pride in herself and her work and enjoyed spending time with us. By not taking the initiative to provide support to our students in higher education and leaving it up to the student to find support a support system, don’t we leave this feeling of success and learning up to chance?

1 comment:

Aun Aprendo (I am still learning.) said...

'The goal' may indeed not have been 'the outcome.' So good of you to realize that an unintended, yet positive outcome was reached.