“Getting On The Right Side Of It”

I really enjoyed Kynard’s piece and admired her ability to draw out the idiosyncrasies that each of her students brought into her classroom. I think that we can all relate to encountering that formulaic research paper that feels like it was written by a bot. But one focus I was hoping we could discuss is how we, as instructors, may unconsciously perpetuate this formula. As I was reading the piece, I was blown away by the type of writing that Kynard’s students Malcolm and Rhonda were able to produce. At the same time, an odd question popped into my head, which was, “how would I grade something like this?” It sounds so silly, but when I think about it, many of my rubrics are inadvertently holding up those old formulaic structures, with 20% dedicated to structure and 20% dedicated to research/quote integration etc, meanwhile I’m saying things like “try to incorporate your voice!” or “Write about something you’re passionate about!’ I now see how this is somewhat contradictory. So, I think Kynard was correct when she pointed out that these papers are not only easy for students to produce, but also easy for us to grade because they are so familiar. There are also qualities to a formulaic research paper that are easy to “measure,” for lack of a better word. If students begin centering personal styles of writing and individual experiences in their research, it becomes a bit more tricky to craft a rubric that captures all that may be produced. I suppose, then, my question for everyone is, how would you grade assignments like those described by Kynard in her piece? I would love to find more of my students’ voices in their writing. At the same time, I fear that encouraging too much personal experience may cause the research paper to drift into the territory of a narrative assignment. Maybe these are arbitrary boundaries, but I do think there is a way to craft the requirements for a research paper that encourages the type of self-exploration Kynard is advocating for while also keeping research centered…if that makes sense. I’m not sure! This is making me self-reflect on my own understanding of what research is and what the desired goals of research should be. I will add that I recently read all of my 1121 student submissions for the letter/speech discourse community assignment and I did see wisps of this “self as text” happening within these pieces. It was incredibly rewarding and fun to read the students write about a community and issue they feel passionate about, while also integrating some research into their work.

5 thoughts on ““Getting On The Right Side Of It”

  1. Prof. Edelson

    Interesting concern about grading. My favorite part of the article was the way she really connected to her students in her comment on the paper–much more of a dialogue with the student than an assessment. I want to embrace that way of communicating with my own students.

  2. Prof. Schanzer

    Yes, I agree about the increased difficulty of grading work that’s structured more informally. I said in a Perusall comment that I worry a bit that when the standards become more mushy, those people who can’t play the subtler game fall through the cracks.

  3. Randi Ross

    One of the things I do to interest students in their work is to let them choose their own topic for a research paper. I ask everyone to brainstorm three topics and we put them on the board. We keep the ones for which students can probably find adequate research material. Then students choose whichever topic on the board they like.

    This way everyone gets an opportunity to submit and choose an idea that interests them.

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