Today we have another guest post by Charity Butcher, Associate
Professor of Political Science at Kennesaw State University. She can be
reached at cbutche2[at]kennesaw[dot]edu.
papers are a common tool used to help students learn about a particular topic.
However, students have become accustomed to using information in different
ways, and will also be expected to present information differently in their
future careers. I therefore decided to give students in my American Foreign
Policy course the option of writing a traditional research paper or completing
the same research project in a different format – a podcast, video, or poster. Nearly
half the students in the class chose one of the alternative formats.
the assignment, students were asked to choose a current American foreign policy
issue, such as U.S. relations with a specific country or a broader foreign
policy topic like development aid, human trafficking, climate change, or terrorism.
Students first submitted proposals that outlined their topic, included a
preliminary bibliography, and identified which format they had chosen. The end
product had to describe the foreign policy issue and its importance to the U.S.,
analyze past U.S. foreign policies on the subject, and recommend future policy.
Regardless of the format, students were evaluated on how well they addressed
of the alternative formats had pros and cons. For podcasts, students could include
information that was similar in quantity to the traditional research paper. On
the other hand, some students first wrote a paper and then read it for the
podcast, making some podcasts less dynamic and creative than I had hoped. Overall
the podcast option seemed to generate the same effects as a research paper, but
added an extra step for students.
The videos were more dynamic than the podcasts and generally included the same amount of content as a traditional paper. Students were very creative in how they presented information, signaling a bit more thinking than the traditional paper. The downside was that the videos were significantly more time consuming than papers for students to produce. Several students experienced technical problems.
which students had to present in class, were quite successful. The poster option
allowed students to practice their presentation skills, though this occupied class
time. It was also more difficult for students to include as much information on
a poster as in a paper, though some of this additional information did get
communicated in presentations.
I felt this experiment was successful. In the future, I will eliminate the
podcast option and have more specific grading rubrics for each project format. Grades
for video and poster formats should incorporate criteria on visual design and
presentation delivery. I may also add other presentation options, such as Prezi.
I may even add a blogging option!