I am officially on spring break, though of course still working. Before I left for a trip out of town, I finished grading the blog assignments from my English 320 Business and Professional Writing students. Overall, I was pleased with the work they did. To review, I’ll note the strong aspects of this assignment and what I plan to improve for when I teach it again.
I was impressed with some of the blogs. So far, this has been some of the strongest writing I have seen all semester. In some ways, I probably should not be surprised. Many of these students are very passionate and knowledgeable about their chosen disciplines and so they will often bring up these seemingly obscure facts about their fields. They will note the overlooked aspects of what their field does. They will get really into discussing why their field is relevant to society as a whole. They will do great jobs with the “so what” portion of the assignment.
I was also surprised by how well many of them created ethical arguments in their fields. While not all did a great job at analyzing each ethical argument, they all chose one and made fairly good arguments towards that ethical issue. I was very happy with these as a whole.
To be Improved
As always, analysis suffered. I received a lot of summary about articles they were to analyze. Also, some analyses of articles sounded more like reviews of articles. This is a problem others who have taught this assignment have had as well. As of now, and mainly because of time, I will not give any solutions for this, but do not think I do not have any solutions in mind.
I am going to change Blog #1, where they describe their field to an outside audience. I noticed here I had two instances of blatant plagiarism. Now, I understand online we see a TON of plagiarism. Students are incredibly familiar (as am I) with Wikipedia and often Wikipedia articles are plagiarized version of other websites that are often plagiarized versions of other sources. so this all becomes a link from one plagiarized article to another. People have asked how do we talk to students about this? The only answer I have is that we need to explicitly state, OK, I know this happens online, but we are in the context of school and academic discourse right now where such behavior is not acceptable. Please rewrite.
But back to changes to Blog #1. Because of this problem, I have decided to revise it slightly and ask students to link back to influences that directed them to their fields of study. In other words, what led them to this chosen discipline? What influences worked together to get them to choose this major?
I may ask more than that, but that is what I have in mind right now. For example, I started off my college career as a History and Political Science major. I’ve got a great memory, so History was not difficult for me and I really like reading about the past. But later I learned it wasn’t for me because 1. I could never picture myself teaching it, though arguably every now and then my history background does show up in my skills as a teacher. How could it not? and 2. I really couldn’t imagine myself as a history scholar. It was hard. I was a creative writer, and still am, at the time and I really enjoyed writing. I enjoyed writing anything and I was, and still am to a degree, highly prolific as a writer. It was this, and some push and shove from a Composition instructor and a roommate that caused me to change my major to English.
And now here I am.
So I would really love to read about how they got to their major along with their descriptions of what that major does for society. I think by adding that piece, while I am sure I will still see plagiarism, I would have people think more deeply about what led them to their present fields.
Perhaps that “answer” is a bit too brief, and too simplistic, and in some ways I think this is true. But it is a start, you all. It is a start. And some days that is the most and best we can ask for.