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10 anytime assignments
Scott Swinneyon 26 February 2014
Transcript of 10 anytime assignments
Create a problem/issue statement
As a means of helping students understand the role of the researcher, deploy a problem/issue statement assignment. Brainstorm debatable issues related to your general topic in class, and then have students pick one and describe a problem that needs attention.
For example, if you assign an essay on the "achievement gap" in K-12 education, ask your students to brainstorm the problems it creates that deserve research. In a literature class, you might have them brainstorm issues of context related to an author's oeuvre. You'll help them move past description of the topic to more focused contextual analysis of specific problems or issues related to it.
Create a purpose statement
Students rarely consider the purpose of their research beyond finishing the assignment and getting a passing grade. As a scholar in your field, you can help them develop a deeper understanding of the purpose behind academic research by asking them to write a purpose statement for their essay.
Once your students have defined a clear problem or issue, ask them to clarify the purpose of their own research. Their goals could be both academic and personal. For example, they might want to explore solutions to a specific problem and learn more effective techniques for using the library's research databases.
Journal Article Critique
Identify and narrow a topic
Sometimes students have a hard time distinguishing between general and specific topics. For example, if you assign a research paper on gender discrimination in the workplace, your students might need early help narrowing the topic to something they can research in one semester.
If you intend to assign a research paper, mention it the first day of class, and have your students write a paragraph about their specific topics within a week or two. This assignment will encourage them to begin preliminary research, and you'll be able to provide early feedback to help them narrow their topics.
Ask your students to keep a journal of their research activity. It can be handed in as part of a portfolio at the end of the semester, and it allows you to keep informal tabs on their engagement level and progress.
Have your students submit rough drafts in phases. Phase one might be documents related to topic narrowing and generating questions and claims. Phase two could be an annotated bibliography and a literature review. Phase three could be concise problem and purpose statements. The number and order of phases is up to you, but phasing gives you informal, low-effort opportunities throughout the semester to check in with your students and ensure a stronger final product.
Generate a claim
Sometimes students simply do not understand how to make claims about a topic. You can check in any time in the semester by helping them develop a claim about their specific research topic. Model claims about a neutral topic in class, and then give them class time to work on a claim of their own (you can check in with them on the spot). Through modeling, encourage them to use a compound/complex sentence that demonstrates reasoning and causality and clearly indicates the purpose behind their research.
Students tasked to generate research questions often create too many specific questions or a few very general ones. To keep your students on task early in the semester, have them generate 2 or 3 solid research questions focused on their specific topic. Model the use of compound/complex sentence structures that show relationships between ideas. It will help your students think through specific issues related to their topics.
first week or two of class
your choice, but this assignment is intended as an early check-in. In lieu of grading, count it as a part of an assignment portfolio related to the final essay.
Once students begin their research, assign an annotated bibliography. You'll help them engage with their sources, and you can offer them early advice on focusing their research.
Have your students write a critical response to one of their sources. You'll help them develop analytical skills and introduce them to key elements of research essays (e.g. literature reviews, findings, discussion).
Assign your students to develop a literature review from an annotated bibliography. You'll help them understand how sources can be used to show agreement and disagreement in a field of inquiry.
Engaged students generate better work, so help your students stay engaged with their major writing assignment throughout the semester (or help them brainstorm ways to engage with hypothetical writing assignments) by using these 10 anytime assignments.