Monday, 26 September 2016

Helping students write better (3)

I've adapted my description of this activity from a colleague, Hulya Oztel, Principal Lecturer at de Montfort University. It's called 'reading cards' and is designed to help students engage with literature and provide feedback on their writing - a very soft form of formative assessment, if you will. Hulya says she got it from school in France and uses it with her students, and it's certainly something I'd like to try in future. It's as much about reading as writing, but I think it's principal use is to keep the students writing regularly and critically.

Students read a journal article, chapter from a book, or book section. They then compile a 'reading card' that consists of the following:

1. The full bibliographic entry of the book/chapter/article. (You'd need to say what format you wanted it in: MHRA, Chicago (footnote), MLA, etc).
2. An abstract. Students should write their own abstract of the piece, limited to 250 words. Plagiarism is a danger here but we are helped in a subject like art history because a lot of literature is published in books rather than journals, and even journal articles don't always have abstracts.
3. Some key quotations drawn from the piece.  
4. A short critical discussion, up to 500 words. Students can identify strengths and weaknesses of the piece, and say whether they agree or disagree, and why. Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement, or a 'hierarchy of agreement' can help them clarify the nature and extent of their critical response - see my earlier post 'Seminar Activities (2)'.  
5. Further reading. Students nominate further readings - you stipulate how many - and add a short sentence for each one explaining their choice, eg. 'Addresses the same issues in an earlier period', 'Mentioned by the author as important for shaping their views on this topic', and so on.

Hulya says she asked the students to complete four reading cards over the course of ten weeks, and after she'd given feedback the students could revise three and submit them as part of their coursework portfolio. It needs to be a regular activity but how you organise the feedback would need some thought, especially if your group is over say 15 students! 

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