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Doing Work on Time: Teaching Strategies

How can we assure that students do their assigned reading/work on
time?  This question gave rise to the following discussion on WMST-L
in November/December 1997.  Of related interest is the file
Quizzes in Women's Studies Courses?  For additional WMST-L files available
on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 11:20:57 -0600
From: Doris W Ewing <dwe997f @ WPGATE.SMSU.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
Next semester I will be using a reader on Race, Class and Gender  to
supplement the text.  What ways have people found (beside pop quizes)
to assure that students read the article on the assigned day?  I have
thought of using small discussion groups and having each student write
something in class to share with their group.  Probably wouldn't want
to do that each time.  Are there other ideas?
Doris Ewing
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 13:51:29 -0500 (EST)
From: KChrist52 <KChrist52 @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I assign 2-3 reading questions on each reading assignment to be handed in at
the beginning of each class. It's a lot of work looking them over. But it does
GREATLY increase the percentage who actually do the reading. Good luck!
Kim Christensen   SUNY/Purchase
christen  @  brick.purchase.edu  or   kchrist52  @  aol.com
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 10:52:41 -0800
From: Kathy Miriam <kmiriam @ CATS.UCSC.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I always have my students either write a question based on each assigned
reading and have them respond to their own question (or choose one
question to respond to) with a one page response,  or, I have them
(depending on skill level and this next is for students who need more
basic skill development) write out the topic of the essay and then one
question that they think the writer should pursue/explore with more
depth.  I also, often, give focused reading-guide questions for students
to respond to.  my own experience is that most students need to have
writing assignments of some sort to make sure that they read and read in
an engaged way.  I also think that small group or pairs for 5 minute
sharing of responses to h.w. questions is invaluable.
Kathy Miriam
kmiriam  @  cats.ucsc.edu
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 14:57:41 -0500
From: Robin Ikegami <ikegami @ XAVIER.XU.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I divide students into groups and assign each student one of the following
roles, giving each student a sheet describing the role and requiring
written notes the student prepares for fulfilling the role:
    1. discussion director -- offers group questions/prompts to
facilitate discussion of the assigned reading; the sheet makes room to list
five questions of moderate length
    2. summarizer -- sums up the main points presented in the reading;
the sheet asks for a list of key points
    3. passage master -- picks specific passages to which to direct the
group for discussion; the sheet asks for a page citation and paragraph
number, a reason for choosing each passage, whether the passage will be
read aloud or silently (there's room for about 4-5 passages)
    4. connector -- offers connections between specific aspects of the
reading and other readings, courses or experiences; the sheet asks for the
description of five connections
    5. artist -- offers a visual representation (drawing, collage) of a
general theme derived from the reading or of a particularly significant
aspect of the reading; the artist then explains the drawing to the group
I try to have each role filled in each group, but I sometimes have to
eliminate a role or two depending on the reading assignment or number of
students in class.  Obviously, I have to assign roles a class ahead of the
scheduled discussion, but I find that students focus their reading better
when they know generally what their responsibilities are for the reading
and discussions go better because everyone has had to prepare in advance.
I collect the sheets and grade them (about like a quiz)--this helps to
ensure a more conscientious response to the assignments.  I also re-convene
the class as a whole so that groups can share their findings with the
entire class.
I got the idea from a friend in California, who got it from something she'd
read.  Now, of course, neither of us can remember the source but, like most
good teaching methods, we've shamelessly appropriated and adapted it for
our own respective classes.
Robin Ikegami
Xavier University
ikegami  @  xavier.xu.edu
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 16:20:20 -0500
From: Bette Tallen <Howetall @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Teaching strategies
Dear Doris,
I have used two strategies for this--one is to have each student write a 1-2
paragraph piece on something about the article that intrigued them--I stress
this is NOT to be a summary--but just something that piqued their interest
(positively or negatively)--I return them ungraded with each student must
hand one in at least 90% of the time.
The second thing I have done--and this is most successful in a residential
setting is to have the students keep a class journal--usually housed in the
library where everyone must post something at least two times a week about
the class--they get into very interesting debates with each other and it is a
wonderful community building exercise.
Hope this helps.
Bette Tallen (howetall  @  rollins.edu)
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 17:38:04 -0500
From: Joan Callahan <buddy @ POP.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I often require that students prepare a substantial question / point for
discussion each day for class and then run the class according to what the
students have prepared.  This can be very effective for ensuring that folks
prepare the readings, particularly if you leave it up to the students
themselves to call on one another to address the question or issue they have

Joan C. Callahan  /  Buddy  @  pop.uky.edu
Professor, Department of Philosophy
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027
FAX: 606-257-3286
URL:  http://www.uky.edu/~buddy/buddywelcome.html
"May we always resist what we know in our hearts to be wrong.
May we do right and keep our word."  Nikky Finney, RICE
=========================================================================== ===========================================================================
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 18:46:16 -0600
From: Ruth P Ginzberg <ginzberg @ BELOIT.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I've been trying to keep my fingers off the keyboard, but every time another
message comes in with the heading "teaching strategies" they get itchier and
Notice that so far neither the question nor the responses are about
*teaching* strategies.  They are about *enforcement* strategies; i.e., "How
can I *enforce* the expectation that the students do the readings before
coming to class?"
I think "teaching" and "enforcing the rules" are two quite different things
(which, in fact, in my opinion tend to interfere with one another); I love the
former and hate the latter, and it always makes me grouchy to even think
that it ("enforcing the rules") even needs to be done. Bot of course, if one
doesn't, one winds up with a classroom full of students who often *haven't*
read the readings.
What in the world ever happened to the notion that reading the readings
before class was just something that was expected, and that was just done
(when at all possible, which ought to be most of the time)?  Are we
(collectively) saddling students with so incredibly much work that they
cannot POSSIBLY operate in any other mode other than "putting out fires",
i.e., attending to whatever would have the worst consequences if it were not
done? (God, how I HATE having to make myself into the scariest threat in the
student's life, just to ensure that the readings are done before class!) How
can this possibly produce the conditions necessary for thoughtful reflection
(if indeed that is a requirement for "learning")?
ginzberg  @  beloit.edu
Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 14:16:01 -0500
From: Jerry Diakiw <jdiakiw @ OISE.UTORONTO.CA>
Subject: Teaching Strategies
I use a variety of strategies that encourage students to do their
readings although the purpose of the activity is pedogogicallly based
rather than control based. My  most successful one is that I reguire them to
hand in a recipe card reflecting on the article in a personal  way.e.g. What
surprised me, confused me, excited me, why I liked it, why I disagree
what it reminded me of from my personal life,  etc.   I do this because I
believe the act of rethinking and expressing the content of the article
in this manner brings an understanding of the content to another level
and enriches the quality of small group discussion. As E. M. Forster said
" How do I know what I think until I see what I write. This process
 also ensures the readings are done.
 For chapters of a text I use a system of group discussion where
eight students every week lead a group of five students in a discussion
of the chapter. They fill in a single sheet-- process analysis to be
handed in the next week. The other students are asked to come to class with
stickums placed  in their chapter marking sections, sentences, ideas that
excited, confused, amused, or reminded them of something. They bring their
own issues to the small groups. At least the eight discussion leaders
come well prepared and it is easy to scan the groups and see the yellow
stickums.  My students love this small group process.
 I have a number of different response strategies which I hand out at the
beginning of the year all of which get at what  I place such high value
on-- " Reading and writing float on a sea of talk"( Britton) So for me if
they are going to read anything I try to structure opportunities for
writing and talking and debating the ideas.
 There is a book called Literature Circles by Harvey Danials (I think)
though designed for language arts classes provides interesting ways to
generate classroom discussion that empower students. On of the chapters
looks a the college classroom. Another post referenced one useful format
from this book with students coming to class with different roles:
discussion leader, connector, summarize, passage master, etc.
 A simple versio of this is to have students come to class asked to put
stickums n their text or reading marking  and reflecting on sentences or
sections of the text they found confusing, insightful,  exciting,
personally relevant.
jdiakiw  @  oise.utoronto.ca
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 04:38:50 -0500
From: "N. Benokraitis" <nbenokraitis @ UBMAIL.UBALT.EDU>
Subject: Teaching Strategies
On Thu, 27 Nov 1997, Jerry Diakiw wrote:
> I use a variety of strategies that encourage students to do their
> readings although the purpose of the activity is pedogogicallly based
> rather than control based.
What's the difference between "pedagogically based" and "control based"?
I've experimented with billions of teaching strategies over the years but
my pedagogical objective has always been the same--getting students to
read and make education a higher priority than all those other
"distractions" (and however important, such as jobs). So, is my teaching
"control based?" If so, what's wrong with this approach?
niki benokraitis, Sociology, University of Baltimore
nbenokraitis  @  ubmail.ubalt.edu
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 11:23:03 -0800
From: Lisbeth Gant-Britton <lstevens @ UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Teaching preparation
I have a corollary question to Doris's about teaching strategies:
Next quarter I will have two Am. Lit. surveys (about 25 students each).
They will meet three times a week, about 1/3 majors.
    I plan to speak ("lecture") for about 15 min. at the beginning of each
How many outline pages do most people prepare for a mini-lecture portion
and how do you creatively prepare stand-by material, given the inevitable
changes/adjustments you will have to make in the course of teaching a
particular text?  (Say, one text is scheduled to take three class periods.)
    I normally just make one straight outline for the whole text and then
bring along supplementary material in a folder.  I'm wondering if there are
better ways to do it.
Best wishes, Lisbeth Gant-Britton
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 06:13:21 -0500
From: Reina Pennington <RPennington @ INFOAVE.NET>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I'm teaching a history survey course this semester which incorporates eight
document discussion sessions.  I required the students to write a 1-page
analysis of their document (each team was allowed to choose from a short
list of documents).  They made two copies, one to hand in before class (to
prevent them writing as they talked), and a second to refer to in their
discussions.  The papers were not summaries, but had to answer a list of
questions about the reliability of the source, bias of the author, etc.
etc.  The papers were graded on a check /check-minus/ check-plus system,
and counted towards participation.  If a student handed in a paper but
missed the actual discussion, the grade was marked down.
This was the first time I've required a writing assignment, and I couldn't
believe the difference.  My students were prepared and involved, the
discussions were lively, and a much higher proportion of students
participated.  Weekly quizzes did not achieve the same results.
Maybe it's just "enforcement" and not "teaching," but it made the
discussions a much better experience for the students, I believe.
Reina Pennington <RPennington  @  InfoAve.net>
Dept. of History, University of South Carolina
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 18:06:45 -0500
From: Heather Wright-Feinsilver <chepo @ IDT.NET>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I have found that asking students to write "paragraphs" or "short essays"
(one-page) on the assigned readings before our discussion in class is
extremely helpful in encouraging students not simply to read before class,
but to think about what they've just read, which is essential to their
individual learning experience and to the collective (good discussion).  I
ask students to reflect for a a bit on the reading before starting to
write, and to write on a question which was raised in the material
(implicit or explicit), a criticism of a point made, or to explore the
relation of the piece to something else we have read in class.  In other
words, a critical piece, not a summary. And not simply their initial
reaction or opinion.  I do not require students to write "paragraphs" on
every reading (this has always seemed to me unreasonable); instead, on
readings for a certain number of classes, for instance 12 out of 15,
therefore building in some time flexibility for them, and also the
opportunity to write a bit more selectively on the readings which they find
most intriguing.  I have found that this approach works best when I teach a
small seminar, but it's productive in larger classes as well.  Of course,
this may mean a significant alteration of the other course requirements,
since one is already asking students to do a great deal of writing.  I
always grade the "paragraphs," and they count for a significant portion of
the course grade (usually 20 - 25%), but you might simply grade on a check,
check minus, check plus basis. Finally, this teaches me about how every
student is doing in the class (since as we all know, not all students
participate in class discussion to the same degree), to give constant
feedback to them, and to encourage them in their efforts on a consistent
   Heather Wright-Feinsilver
   Senior Teaching Fellow
   Department of Political Science
   Fordham University
   e-mail: chepo  @  mail.idt.net
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 18:34:13 -0500
From: beatricekachuck <bkachuck @ CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject: Teaching strategies
    I found it helpful to ask students to come to class with at least one
question or comment on the reading, pointing out something that needed
clarification and what was ambiguous, what they agreed or disagreed with
and why. Sometimes I collected these (unsigned jottings) at the beginning;
a quick reading could help me reformulate what I had prepared for the
    I also tried to adjourn classes a few minutes early and asked students to
jot down a point or two they wished had been given more attention that day
(also unsigned jotted notes) - an aid in developing the course, or, if the
student signed the note, it could be the basis for a 1:1 conference.
    In neither case did I adhere to the practice all the time. It would make
the process too mechanical. The point was not simply to make sure they did
the reading but to set up paths to critical reading. I started doing the
sorts of things I'm mentioning because I found many students reading to
'take in the text' rather than, as I put it to them, 'taking charge of it.'
    In some courses, I've formulated a question on the syllabus along with the
topic for each session, as an aid for a focus for reading, cautioning them
at the beginning of the semester that they shouldn't take that as the only
matter to give attention to. In some courses, I've specified questions
students should be prepared to address in class; by midsemester, the
students find they don't need focus questions from me and I drop them.
    The above were for undergraduate and some masters level courses. There and
in doctoral level courses, I sometimes suggest something of particular
interest to pay particular attention to; anticipating that I know more
about the field than the students do and should point out such things. Like
the strategies above, this is a way to map the field.
    beatrice    bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.net
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 08:22:43 -0500
From: Lynne Taetzsch <l.taetzsch @ MOREHEAD-ST.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
Sometimes at the beginning of discussion classes, I use "writing to
think" exercises for the first 5 to 15 minutes.  I might ask students to
brainstorm possibiities on a particular issue or question (after having
demonstrated brainstorming with the whole class); loosely write their
impressions or responses; make up a list of questions about the reading.
Another activity becomes a "conversation":  WE sit in a circle, and each
write for five minutes (about an issue, answer to a question, our
responses, etc.); then we pass our papers to the person next to us; we
all read what our neighbor wrote and then write a response to that;  we
pass again, and so forth.  After 4 or 5 passes, we stop.  At this point,
we have a number of conversations going on around the room which we use
as starting off points for further discussion.  I always join my students
in these activities, further modelling the behavior.  Sometimes I collect
these papers to give students "credit" and to see how they are doing
Lynne Taetzsch  l.taetzsch  @  morehead-st.edu
Dept. of English, Foreign Languages and Philosophy
Morehead State University, UPO Box 645, Morehead, KY 40351
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 10:21:15 -0500
From: Patrice McDermott <patricem @ CAPACCESS.ORG>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I have been following these suggestions with great interest. I am
wondering if others have had the experience of students focusing
predominantly on all the issues an author (even of a short article or
essay) did NOT cover. I have tried to explain (repeatedly) that it is not
an author's obligation to present everyone else's views (and that
critiquing/analyzing is not just the above -- or talking about how they
don't like the author's writing style which is something else I get a
lot). Some students do an excellent job of talking pros & cons of a
piece, raising good questions, etc., but I think others use the "I don't
like this author" approach as a way to avoid serious thinking.
Does anyone have suggestions? And does anyone else think that the former
of these two approaches may come from the use (altho not by me) of
anthologies of writings that contain snippets of writings from a wide
variety of authors on all sides of an issue -- so that students think
that _any_ writing _should_ present all sides "fairly"?
Thanks in advance.
Patrice McDermott
patricem  @  CapAccess.org
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 11:34:34 -0500
From: "Carol R. Awasu" <crawasu @ MAILBOX.SYR.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I have been following these teaching strategy suggestions with much
interest.  I have used some variations of these suggestions in my African
American History class of 24 students, and with much success.  However, in
the Spring I will be teaching a much larger class of almost 100 students on
Feminisms in an International Context in a large lecture hall.  We will have
discussion sections, facilitated by TA's, on another day.
However, I am interested in using some of these strategies in the 'lecture'
section also.  Any suggestions on: (1) strategies which work for a class of
100+ students; (2) how to utilize the strategies mentioned before with a
larger class, in a lecture hall setting.
Please respond to: crawasu  @  mailbox.syr.edu.
Dr. Carol R. Awasu                    208 Bowne Hall
Associate Director                    Syracuse, New York 13244
Women's Studies Program                    (315) 443-3707
Syracuse University                    (315) 443-9221 FAX
crawasu  @  mailbox.syr.edu
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 15:31:53 -0500
From: Leonora Smith <smithleo @ PILOT.MSU.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
Re teaching strategies.  I use writing with every reading assignment, and
then use the assignment to seque into  discussion.  Often it's very short.
"Pick out a quote that puzzles you and describe what you find puzzling."
(We then write these on individual pieces of paper and pass them around,
commenting in writing for 10 minutes or so, then move into the discussion.)
"Under what circumstances do you envision the author coming to write this
article?  What--in the text and in your experience--makes you form this
vision?"  "Create a short (five minute) writing assignment for the rest of
the class which asks them to think through a major implication of the
argument or perspective the article presents."  (I only do this after we've
written quite a bit.)  These pieces of writing take me only minutes to
review, and offer raw material for good papers; they give me a good sense
of what is clear and what is opaque, and where I mgiht direct my energies.
They also offer opportunities for students who aren't so vocal to
contribute their embryonic ideas.  It works wonders for me...Leonora Smith
Leonora Smith
smithleo  @  pilot.msu.edu
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 21:43:32 -0600
From: "Julie K. Daniels" <Julie.K.Daniels-2 @ TC.UMN.EDU>
Subject: Teaching strategies
I, too, have benefitted from the great teaching suggestions and thank
everyone who has offered them.
Although I haven't encountered the kind of student responses that Patrice
describes below (and I don't have a speciffic solution for dealing with
them), I do want to add a related point: I have noticed that students often
think that summarizing a writer's work is not an important task.  What I
run into is students who misunderstand (or fail to understand completely)
an essay.  They seem to have the impression that they can comment on or
critique a writer without having to understand the writer's argument.
Perhaps summarizing is seen as an unimportant task because we teachers
sometimes give writing assignments with the words, "I want more than simply
a summary" or "Rather than simply summarize, I want students to engage with
and analyze the material."  This down-playing of the importance of
summarizing *as a tool for accurate understanding* sometimes comes back to
haunt us when students ignore significant points or misunderstand arguments
or twist quotations out of context to suit their own needs.
Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I think the summary has an important place
in our pedagogical toolkit, and perhaps the dismissal of it leads to the
kinds of quick, superficial criticisms that Patrice describes below.  It
becomes easy to see holes if you haven't spent the time to see how the
whole piece is knit together.
Julie K. Daniels
Department of Rhetoric
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN  55108
danie029  @  maroon.tc.um.edu
Date: Tue, 02 Dec 1997 10:04:34 -0500
From: Katherine Side <kside @ ACS.RYERSON.CA>
Subject: Teaching strategies
On the topic of student writing, and summary and critique, I tried
something new with a full year course, that I hope will work.  In
general, I have found that students are not always prepared with the
tools to write a research paper;  nor do they, for the reasons already
mentioned, (paid work, etc.) always plan the time needed for a research
In a third year, required course, (Sociology of Health) my students are
required to write a research paper.  In preparing them for
writing this, I have given them a first assignment that is related.
They were to choose a number of articles/book chapters, from academic
sources, related to their topic and provide annotations for them.  I
gave them some specific questions to steer their annotations beyond the
level of summary (although I agree with a previous poster and think it is
also an important skill).  Questions, for example, include things like,
'What is the author's main argument?' 'What evidence is offered to support this
argument?'  We also spent a fair amount of class time discussing this,
and they wrote, in groups, annotations for some of the class readings,
and we discussed them as a class.  (I have the relative luxury of a class
size of 21).  I also booked a seminar with the librarian, as part of the
course, to help them locate articles.
I found that the annotations, as a whole, were generally well done.  They
have all identified topics that they will research and they have already
located some primary sources for that paper. One of my students,
afterward, told me that when I handed out the  assignment she thought it
was "stupid" and "a waste of her time".  Having  completed it, she said
she no longer thinks it was a "stupid assignment"  and she said she has
become a more critical reader in her other courses.  She suggested that I
keep the assignment.
Of course, there are limitations here.  It was easier to discuss in class
because the class was small; the cource is a full year (Sept. - March)
course, etc., but I think it is ONE of many ways to help students think
critically, read carefully and develop good research skills.
Katherine Side
kside  @  acs.ryerson.ca
Department of Sociology
Ryerson Polytechnic University
Toronto, Ontario
Date: Wed, 03 Dec 1997 10:41:39 +1100
From: Gabrielle Meagher <gabriell @ ECON.USYD.EDU.AU>
Subject: Teaching tools - summaries and critiques
Dear all,
The issue of knowing what an article says before you criticise it is
Here is something I have used in teaching quite large groups (55-65) in
'workshop' sessions based on small groups of students discussing set
I developed this tool with the help of a teaching development person in
the Faculty.
Students are asked to bring a summary of a text to class, to swap with
another student, apply the criteria, and together to 'work up' one of the
summaries into something which fulfils them.
1. Does the summary include complete citation details of the text?
2. Does the summary clearly state the main intent of the text?
3. Does the summary register the main points of the text?
4. Does the summary give sufficient explanation of these main points for
example with illustrations?
5. Does it show the relationships between the main points?
6. Is the summary written clearly?
 There are some other qualities more directed towards the essay and the
project report, to guide your next summary writing.
7. Does the summary acknowledge the point of view of the writer(s)?
8. Does the summary set out the hierarchy of values underlying the
analysis in the text?
9. Does the summary set out the implicit or explicit explanatory arguments
put forward by the writer(s)?
10. Does the summary make some critical evaluation of the text?
11. Does the summary attempt to make links between this text and other
Best wishes,
Gabrielle Meagher    email    gabriell  @  sue.usyd.edu.au
Department of Economics,
University of Sydney,
NSW, 2006, Australia
Date: Tue, 02 Dec 1997 22:10:36 -0500
From: beatricekachuck <bkachuck @ CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject: Teaching strategies
    You're right, of course, Patrice. One author isn't obligated to present
everyone else's views on a topic. But I do think that a strong argument
considers a contrary or alternative viewpoint and shows why hers/his is
more persuasive - or fills a gap in another argument. An important goal in
teaching is to teach students how arguments are developed and how to make
an argument.
    And, yes, snippets in anthologies can be misleading and textbooks that
survey points of view, with the authors seeming to be above them all, don't
tell others' whole story; the textbook authors actually present their own
view of others. A good reason for reading primary texts. But anthologies
and textbooks can be useful introductions to map a field.
    One strategy I've found useful is to ask students to discern what an
author is trying to get them to think about an issue, what the strategies
for doing that are, how persuasive these are, what else they know about the
issue. With students whose reading is unperceptive it helps to start a
course by going thru sets of paragraphs for a few sessions to see what a
writer is doing in each, how the argument is being developed. In an MA Educ
course, two intro textbooks with contrasting points of view, one by a
liberal ed psych writer who has some feminist leanings and the other by
feminist critical theory sociologists) was wonderfully stimulating for the
students. As might be expected, some students liked one better than the
other; some seemed glad to find confirmation of what they knew and others
were delighted to find new ways of thinking. (Sometimes a writer's style
makes the content difficult; sometimes there are new concepts and
vocabulary; sometimes it's disagreement with content that students call
'style' - these have to be sorted out)
    A memorable comment for me, which I think helps with teaching, is one by
Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid. They talk about history but I believe what
they say applies generally. When we acknowledge that each aspect of reality
is gendered, they write, we question all that we think we know, examine
analytical and epistemological apparatus, and dismantle the ideological
presuppositions of so called gender-neutral methodologies. That's tough to
do and it's the process we undertake in Women's Studies. Keeping the
comment in mind has been an intellectual discipline for me, making me think
through and articulate how gender works in a variety of issues; recalling
how hard that is helps me be  patient with students for whom such thinking
is new.
            beatrice     bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.mci.net
Date: Thu, 04 Dec 1997 21:37:27 -0500
From: "Deborah A. Elliston" <dae13 @ CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: Teaching Tools
It's wonderful to learn of the tools others of you have developed for
helping students to build critical thinking skills, a project I think
should stand at the heart of undergraduate education.  I use written
assignments I have variously called "Discussion Summaries" and, more
recently, "Argument Notes."  (The change in name reflects my attempt to get
students to focus more closely on analyzing arguments with minimal
descriptive summarizing.)  I've had increasingly good results using this
tool, even though students may, initially, be rather dismayed by the amount
of work involved.  Here are the guidelines I hand out the first day of
class along with the syllabus:
Guidelines for Argument Notes
    Argument Notes are short analytical summaries of the assigned
readings for one class meeting and are due each week the class meets.  They
should be typed, with 1" (or more) margins on all sides.  Students should
aim for making their Notes 350 words in length; the absolute upper limit on
word number is 500 words.  These analytical  summaries are not meant to be
exhaustive.  Students should aim in their Argument Notes to demonstrate
their understanding of the more important arguments the author(s) is (are)
making in the day's assigned readings.  Argument Notes are intended (1) to
help students prepare for in-class discussion of the readings assigned for
the day; (2) to help students develop critical thinking skills (by
identifying arguments, engaging with arguments, and integrating arguments
across readings); and (3) to help students improve their writing skills
(clarity of presentation, conciseness, etc.).
    Argument Notes consist of three sections, which should be clearly
identified on the Notes students hand in:
    (1) Summary:  Identify and summarize three to four of the key
arguments or main points of the day's assigned readings.  Ask yourself what
the author is trying to convince you of and how.  This section should not
be descriptive; it should be analytical.  It is also not meant to be
exhaustive:  pick out three or four of the more important key arguments or
main points of the readings, and briefly map them, i.e., elaborate their
supporting claims; detail how the argument(s) "work."  (The summary section
is the most important section of your Argument Notes and should be give the
most space and attention.)
    (2) Integration:  Pick one or two ways in which the author's
arguments or the assigned reading  more generally relate to other course
readings, films/videos, in-class discussions, or other cross-cultural
materials with which you are familiar, and elaborate on these connections.
How, for example, do the day's readings challenge, complement, complicate
or in some other way relate to other readings, in-class discussions or
extra-class materials?  Look for points of similarity or difference, and
generate connections, contrasts or comparisons between them.
    (3)  Questions/Reactions:  Identify questions the readings raise
for you that we could discuss in class or in study sections.  If you are
having difficulties with a particular reading assign=1Fment, this is the
place to put your specific questions about which parts of the reading did
not make sense.
    In addition, this is the section in which you can raise objections
(to content, style, politics, methods, etc.), agreement, accolades, or any
other reactions you have to a reading.  If you have strong reactions to the
reading(s), in other words, the Questions/Reactions section, and no other
section of the Argument Notes, is the appropriate place in which to voice
them.  (Note:  Students should not, then,  include your reactions to
readings in the Summary and/or Integration sections of the Argument Notes:
those sections are analytical places where students are expected to tease
out an author's arguments, a necessary step preliminary to and separable
from evaluating an author's arguments.)
    Argument Notes are due on the day the readings are slated for class
discussion (as listed on the Course Schedule) and will not be accepted
late.  Each student is responsible for handing in Argument Notes on one
day's readings per week (to be turned in during class the day the readings
are slated for discussion), although each student chooses the day, each
week, for which s/he wants to write and hand in Argument Notes.  Notes are
due once per week each week the class meets, except for the first and last
weeks of class when no Notes are due.
    Notes will be graded as either X or X- for the first four weeks
students turn them on; from then on Argument Notes will be graded. An X
indicates the Notes effectively analyze arguments; an X- is a red flag
indicating the Notes do not adquately analyze arguments and students should
meet with the instructor or TAs for further guidance on what arguments are
and how one goes about mapping them.  Argument Notes are worth 40% of each
student's final grade for the course.
Deborah A. Elliston
Visiting Assistant Professor * Department of Anthropology
264 McGraw Hall * Cornell University * Ithaca, New York  14853
Phone:  607/255-4040 * Fax:  607/255-3747 * E-mail:  dae13  @  cornell.edu

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