Failing to assimilate the significance of our courses into their understandings they produce instead what they think the tutor wants; a despairing and deceptive ritual, a superficial imitation of the outward form of learning, rather than the real thing. The problems with the conventional essay are as follows. First, it has to be undertaken at the end of the course, when only a few weeks remain before the assignment deadline. This time pressure makes it difficult for students not only to create their own sense of the relationships between a variety of new ideas, but to embody this new understanding in a written text.
Share via Email It's time we found an alternative to the student essay. For tutors across the country, it's marking time again and, reading essays, we realise that many of our students have yet again taken refuge in "surface learning". Failing to assimilate the significance of our courses into their understandings they produce instead what they think the tutor wants; a despairing and deceptive ritual, a superficial imitation of the outward form of learning, rather than the real thing.
The problems with the conventional essay are as follows.
First, it has to be undertaken at the end of the course, when only a few weeks remain before the assignment deadline. This time pressure makes it difficult for students not only to create their own sense of the relationships between a variety of new ideas, but to embody this new understanding in a written text.
So, lacking sufficient time, they panic. Second, given this postponement of the writing task, teaching staff only become aware of students who are having difficulties when time is short - a problem frequently made worse because such students often keep a low profile and hope for the best.
Third, in order to maximise the time available to do the essay, students focus on earlier topics in the course and attendance at later sessions drops off precisely when the overall structure of course content may start to become clearer.
Fourth, the essay requires a specific style of writing, and, for many students, this style is difficult and alien, especially those returning to formal learning after a substantial break and those who are first-generation participants in higher education.
The essay thus disenfranchises students who may be quite capable of embodying their understanding of ideas in other genres and styles, but are not given the opportunity of doing so.
Finally, the essay requires the student to adopt the essentially unrealistic stance of one who has now, after just a few weeks' teaching, "mastered" a new topic. The essay presents learning as an authoritative "product", rather than the gradual process by which new learning is assimilated, through reading, discussion and personal reflection.
The essay is the source of the problem - but what would real learning look like? A group of staff based at Anglia Polytechnic University and including colleagues at Nottingham Trent, the Open University and Cambridge, have just completed a research project in which we substituted a "patchwork text" assignment format for the conventional academic essay.
The key feature of the patch work text assignment is that it consists of a carefully structured series of short pieces of writing, carried out at regular intervals throughout the course - typically over a term or semester. These small-scale writing tasks are varied in style and genre.
They may include, for example, a critique of an article, a set of notes on a lecture together with a commentary, detailed and analytical accounts of personal experiences a visit, field trip, interview, classroom activitya poster representation of the relationship between key ideas, a project proposal and even with some topics a poem or a fictional story.
Each piece of writing is shared with other students in small working groups of four or five, as the tutor circulates between the groups, noting the discussions. When the teaching sessions are completed, students submit an overall assignment consisting of their collection of short pieces edited and perhaps amended together with a final retrospective commentary.
In this they review the relationship between the separate pieces and describe where they feel they now stand in relation to the ideas of the course. In this way they "stitch the patches together". Each of these features of the patchwork text explicitly addresses the problems of the academic essay noted above.
And the experience of our research project is that almost all students who have undertaken this assignment format experienced very high morale, and a satisfying and often unprecedented sense of ownership of their learning.
Moreover, in one detailed comparison of two cohorts of students, using intellectual criteria derived from the essay format, students writing patchwork texts scored better than students writing essays, according to some criteria, and no worse according to any of them. There were fewer failures and fewer marginal passes.
And although the best students did well in all the varied writing tasks, the weaker students did better in some than others, suggesting the patchwork text has a genuine potential for widening access to higher education success.
Things are not quite so simple, of course, but this feels like a start.“Teachable Alternatives” to the 5-Paragraph Essay November 22, January 2, Tricia Ebarvia On Friday morning at the NCTE Annual Convention, I sat in a session that featured Tom Romano, Mariana Romano, and Linda Rief.
Jun 25, · View and download alternative energy essays examples. Also discover topics, titles, outlines, thesis statements, and conclusions for your alternative energy essay. Home. Alternate ending! Essays: Over , Alternate ending!
Essays, Alternate ending! Term Papers, Alternate ending! Research Paper, Book Reports. ESSAYS, term and research papers available for UNLIMITED access. Alternative Medicine essaysThroughout centuries, people of various cultures have relied on what Western Medicine today calls - alternative medicine.
The term alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. It generally describes those treatments and heal. Alternative energy refers to energy sources that have no undesired consequences such for example fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
Alternative energy sources are . Better Essays words | ( pages) | Preview Alternative Energy Sources for the World - The world has relied on the same sources of fuels and delivery systems for at least the past one hundred years.