My previous post explained how students will complete the template that identifies possible causes of either increased democracy or increased authoritarianism in two nation-states from 2000 to 2020. The next step in this project is for students to work in teams to produce qualitative comparative analyses. Here are my instructions for this collaborative assignment:Continue reading “Changing a Comparative Politics Course, Part 4”
One last post about successes and failures from the previous semester: last summer a colleague pointed me toward Knight Lab Timeline JS, and, inspired by Matthew Wilson’s work on crowd-sourcing and self-instruction, I decided to include a timeline project in my undergraduate course on the Middle East. Setting up the project was relatively simple:
Students were already divided into teams for breakout discussions, presentations, and note-taking; I used the same teams for the timelines. I chose five Middle Eastern countries that featured prominently in assigned readings — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia — and created corresponding files in Google Sheets using the spreadsheet template provide by Knight Lab. I gave each team access to its Google Sheet.
Students completed five graded individual assignments that were designed to prevent free riders and guarantee that teams were working on the project throughout the semester rather than only in a frenzied rush at the end. Here are the instructions for the assignment and its associated rubric:Continue reading “Fall 2020: Looking Backward and Forward, Part 3”
Another example of why it’s good to consult with librarians:
For the last several years in my globalization course, I’ve had student teams create and deliver presentations on their commodity chain analyses and ethnographies of consumption. Generally students build Powerpoint files for these assignments; occasionally someone uses Prezi. Simple rubrics make grading this work very easy. But the end products aren’t going to make recent graduates stand out from the competition when interviewing with prospective employers. It’s also difficult to convey the content of the entire project in a single presentation without showing a mind-numbing number of slides. Enter the storymap . . .
One of our librarians, a specialist in digital scholarship whom I’ll be working with next semester, introduced me to the digital storytelling tool from Esri,* a.k.a. the Environmental Systems Research Institute, which allows a person to create a multi-media presentation with ArcGIS. Rather than describe what this looks like, I’ll show you:
My task now is to reconfigure the project’s different assignments so that students complete their own storymaps by the end of the course, and figure out how to evaluate them.
*I have no financial interest in this company.
As I mentioned in my last post about changes to my globalization course, my original plan of assigning an ethnography in conjunction with a project for a community partner no longer seemed likely to serve its intended purpose, so I removed it mid-semester. As a replacement, I have assigned students the task of creating infographics, first individually, and then in teams of four. I will turn over the latter products to the community partner as one of the deliverables from the project. Directions for the individual assignment are as follows: Continue reading “Changing a Course on Globalization, Part 5”
The semester is half over, and it has become apparent that I need to make some on-the-spot changes to my globalization course. The first change is quite minor: students have added or dropped the course, necessitating an edit to my Canvas LMS survey for the Project Contribution Award. As I mentioned previously, the mechanics of this procedure would be extremely time-consuming with a large class.
The second change is much more . . . extensive. As part of a foundation grant, the class is formally partnered with a local non-profit organization, Aquidneck Community Table (ACT). Students are collecting and analyzing data on the food consumption patterns of local residents by means of face-to-face interviews and supermarket receipts. Course assignments related to this project include a food ethnography and a single class-wide report for ACT.
The food ethnography is essentially the same as the ethnography of consumption that I have used in past iterations of the course (discussed here and in the bullet points here). My instructions for the ethnography this semester: Continue reading “Changing a Course on Globalization, Part 4”
Historically my students have been reluctant to evaluate their performance in relation to that of their peers, whether via Monopoly money, rubrics, or anonymous online rank-order surveys. Given that team-based projects account for twenty to twenty-five percent of the final grade in several of my courses, I do think it’s important to ensure some degree of individual accountability in any formally-assessed collaboration between students. No one likes being forced to work with free riders, especially in a course like this one, where students will be conducting research outside of scheduled class time by gathering information from (gasp!) members of the local community. As I have explained to students before — without much success — I can’t be aware of how hard or how well every single one of them has worked with their teammates on a group project, because I’m not always present when the work happens.
So, I racked my brain for a new method of peer evaluation, and came up with the Project Contribution Award:
Please select four people from class, other than yourself, whom you think each deserves 40 points for their outstanding contributions to the project. I will tally the results and the individuals with the most votes will win the award.
Students will submit their choices via an ungraded survey on the Canvas LMS.
The class has only twenty students, so the Project Contribution Award translates into one-fifth of them winning an additional 40 points in a course with a 1,200 point grading scale, a three percent bonus for being perceived by classmates as having performed well on the project. Although I will be dividing students into teams that will take on different responsibilities, the quality of the final product for the community partner will be dependent in some fashion on everyone’s contribution. So I’m hoping that the one in five possibility of earning the award is a sufficient incentive. If not, I can increase the weight of the award in future semesters, or assign one award to each team instead of having multiple awards for the whole class.
A mechanical note: constructing this kind of survey on Canvas requires repeatedly copying and pasting the names of all the students on the class roster. In my case, the survey has four multiple choice questions, each with the same set of twenty names, so the process only took a few minutes. But the inability to generate multiple iterations of a survey or quiz question with a “copy” command probably reduces the utility of Canvas’s quiz feature for courses with large enrollments. No one wants to paste each student’s name over and over again for a 200-student class. In this scenario, I would probably use Google Forms, which does allow the copying of questions. However, I would not be able to just send a link to the survey to students, because responses would be anonymous (allowing students to vote for themselves). Everyone in the class would need Gmail accounts. If your university uses Gmail as its email client, that’s great, but if not, this option requires some extra work on the instructor’s part getting students to create Google accounts with easily-identifiable usernames.
Links to all posts in this series:
In my 2016 first-year seminar, I had teams of students build games, something that originated with a vaguely-defined classroom exercise that I had created on the spur of the moment in class the year before. I’m going to include game design in the course again this fall, but with a few tweaks. Here is an overview of what’s going to happen:
Teams of students will go through three iterations of game design. An individually-written policy memo serves as a preparatory assignment for each round. The respective contexts of the games are the flight of a refugee from a location in South Sudan, the construction and operation of an NGO-managed camp for Rohingya refugees who have fled to Thailand, and the resettlement of a group of Afghan refugees in a relatively small community in the USA. Complete instructions for all of these game design exercises are at TeachersPayTeachers. Teams design their games in class over a few days and then they beta test each other’s games, evaluating them against a rubric. Points from the rubric get added to each student’s grade. Continue reading “Making Students Make: Classroom Game Design Part 1”
A few thoughts about the semester that is about to end:
First, the “open notebook” in-class quizzes did cause many more students to take notes than in the past. However, creating the quizzes — with most of the questions based on prior class discussion — was a pain. Same for printing and grading them. For three undergraduate courses with small enrollments, the task wasn’t very complex, nor did it require a lot of effort, but it did become yet one more thing I had to organize throughout the semester. Also I gave fewer quizzes than I originally anticipated, which forced me to alter their weights in the final course grade. I’m now thinking that I could deliver the quizzes more easily and frequently through our Canvas LMS — they would be machine graded. But I would still need to invest in designing questions and building each quiz throughout the semester. A more rigid, pre-planned system for class discussions would allow me to generate all the quizzes before the semester starts, but I really don’t want to do this because it would move me back in the direction of lecturing. Continue reading “Another End of Semester Reflection”
Students in my courses do a lot of team-based projects. In an attempt to prevent free riders, I have teammates evaluate each other. This semester I have again modified the evaluation system a bit, with an unexpected result.
For the past three semesters I’ve been using Google Forms to distribute and tabulate anonymous surveys in which students rank themselves and their teammates. The instructions on this survey:
Evaluate the performance of everyone on your team, including yourself, by ranking all members of your team with a different number. Each number can be used only once, otherwise your responses will be discarded. Assign the number 1 to the person who made the most valuable contribution to the project, the number 2 to the person who made the second most valuable contribution, etc. Only enter information for your team. Leave questions for other teams blank.
My explanation to students of how rankings translated into points — in this case, up to 40: Continue reading “Teammate Evaluations, Revisited”
This semester I have formally incorporated a civic engagement project into one of my courses — students have partnered with local business owners to learn about the production and consumption of global commodities. I am new to community partnerships, and I have already learned some useful lessons about communication, expectations, and pedagogical design: