Monday, September 13, 2010

Refining Inquiry Questions

I'm thinking more about the question I'm going to work on this term as part of the inquiry project. Here are the two questions I started with last week:

1.How can I design assessments that are enjoyable for students and help me see where they’re meeting/not meeting standards?

2. How can I grade papers in a way that students can clearly understand what they need to do to improve? And how can that grading be done most efficiently?

I'm holding off on the third question I posted last week, mostly because so far this year, I haven't been encountering the same resistance. I'm sure it will be something I look into eventually.

I'm thinking that I'll combine questions 1 and 2 into a third, slightly different question: How do I balance teaching (analytical) writing skills with the habit of playing with the text? I'm focusing on freshmen, since I have two sections of them this term. The question is particularly important for freshmen, since they do need explicit writing instruction. Yet part of doing English is also learning how to enjoy the text, not just explicate it.

Part of the inquiry process is also identifying what kind of equity issue my question addresses. English classes tend to privilege the verbal, the folks who like to talk and write. They aren't such friendly places for people who like to think quietly or who want to go out and play soccer. So, how do I assess and reach those people? How do I get them to write compelling analytical essays, even if they'd rather be outside running around? It is an equity issue insofar as there are privileged groups and less-privileged groups in my class. I'd like to make the playing field more even.

I'm still working out how this question will manifest itself in my classroom. Will I try to design different prompts? Will I work with a couple of students who are really struggling, and try to offer them other ways to dig into the texts? And how do I sell analytical writing as fun? Stay tuned...

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