I had my 100-level…

I had my 100-level students do group papers for their first paper; inevitably, some of them find this frustrating, but there are sound pedagogical reasons for doing group papers, and so I keep assigning them, at least in lower level classes. They're an opportunity for the students to teach each other -- when it goes well, they give each other more individual attention than there's time for them to each get from me, and their writing improves markedly as a result. (The more experienced writers in the group learn a lot too, because teaching something is often the best way of gaining mastery over the material.) And of course, most of their work lives will probably involve group work at least some of the time, so learning how to get things done with colleagues is just generally a good skill for them to have.

That said, some of my students e-mailed me yesterday extremely frustrated, more so than usual. And I ended up sleeping restlessly, I think because I was fretting about it. This morning, I went online and looked for other teachers' ways of dealing with group papers, and decided to add an assessment component to the grading -- something I should have included from the beginning, I think, for best results. Still, hopefully this will help. Their papers are due today; the assessments will be due Thursday. In case this is helpful to anyone else assigning group papers, this is what I came up with.

As a final component of the group paper, each of you will respond to this e-mail with a short individual letter (1-2 paragraphs) in which you discuss this paper assignment.

What did you find difficult about this assignment, including working with a group (if that was an issue), and what did you do to overcome those difficulties? What do you think are the strengths of your essay? What would you still like to work on if you had more time?

Please keep in mind that the letter is not an opportunity for you to 'sell' your essay to me. What I'm looking for is an honest assessment of your writing process. This will factor into your final grade on this assignment (as a result, group members may not all get the exact same grade).

Yes, I lose sleep over my teaching sometimes. It's sad.

7:10 addendum: I've had one student send in her response already, and it's clearly going to be helpful both in grading her group's paper, and in helping me design the assignment better for next time I teach it. Good.

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