I have been pretty darn happy with an assignment I do twice each term with students: the Contribution Assessments.
The assignment is simple. It looks like this. The instructions:
To do this assessment, you will need to review:
1. Your record. Go to your Profile to view your Activity Reports and Forum Posts.
2. The rubric at the Grading page.
Go ahead and click “Attempt quiz now” to see instructions — there is no limit on the number of times you can come back into the Assessment.
The assessment (this one’s from the middle of the term):
After carefully examining the grading rubric Contribution column, your logs, and forum posts, consider at what level and in what ways you have fulfilled contribution requirements for the first half of the class.
Please briefly explain:
1. how many points (out of 10) you think you should have for this half of the class, and
|Grade||Contribution to the Class|
|Logs into class at least three times a week, always posts both source and thesis, posts three times per week and on time, focus kept on questions as they develop, good response to instructor guidance in the forums and individually, helpful to other students, excellent primary sources posted in forums, quality posts contain excellent theses, relate to course materials and indicate extensive or intensive reflection about the issues. Evidence that all assignments and lectures have been read/heard.|
|Logs into class at least twice a week, almost always posts both source and thesis, usually posts twice per week and on time, mostly responds to instructor guidance in the forums and individually, helpful to other students, very good primary sources posted in forums, very good theses, posts usually relate to course materials and indicate some reflection about the issues. Evidence that almost all assignments and lectures have been read/heard.|
|Logs in about twice per week, usually posts both source and thesis, posts at least once per week, typically posts during the same week, occasionally helpful to and rarely distracts other students, posts good sources and factual theses, which occasionally relate to course materials and indicates a modest amount of reflection. Often doesn’t respond to instructor’s guidance in the forums or individually. Evidence that most assignments and lectures have been read/heard.|
|Logs in irregularly, posts less than once per week, sometimes posts source but not thesis or vice versa, doesn’t usually post on time, sources often not primary or may be inappropriate, rarely helpful to other students, posts indicate pat responses and little reflection. Little response to instructor guidance. Evidence that some assignments and lectures have been read/heard.|
59% and below
|Rarely logs in, has just a few posts, often not on time, no help to other students, posts do not add to general discussion and indicate little or no reflection. Evidence that most assignments and lectures have not been read/heard.|
Because I have so many students in each section, and they do so much writing each week posting their work in the forums, this is a big opportunity to touch base with each student as an individual.
Some just write about what they did. Some mention when I’ve used their work as a good example. Others tell me all about the troubles they have, how they’re taking five classes and working full time, how they’ve been sick, how they don’t really understand history, all to provide justification/explanation/context for whatever grade they think they deserve.
They also evaluate my work. They tell me that they like how the class is designed, how they like the way they have to do things each week. They tell me that this is the first college/history class where they’ve had to really think. They thank me for setting up the course so they can pursue their own interests. They tell me they put more time into this class than any other, because it’s interesting. Many of the student quotations I use on my college home page come from this exercise (with their permission, of course).
And I get to comment back to them, evaluating their recent theses, chiding them for not doing their reading, thanking them for their examples to others, and their helpfulness, and their contribution to the class.
Most of the time I give them the grade they’ve requested. If my own grade would have been a bit lower, I give them theirs and tell them my expectations for the second half. If my own grade would have been much lower, I explain in detail and lower the grade accordingly. But most of them are either right on track or discount their work too much, so I go a little higher and explain why.
Over and over, they tell me they are grateful for the opportunity to step back and look at their work, look at the rubric, and develop further expectations for themselves. This semester a student told me he considered this exercise a contract, with me as witness to him promising to do better work.
It’s just a little meta-cognition thrown into the mix of reading and work. It takes a long time to grade and respond to them, but every time I do it I’m glad I did.