Great, more ideas for next school year!

This post is a follow up to Finally, some ideas for next school year!

I only have one addition here, but boy. Is it a BIG one! It is best described as a reconfiguration of sorts. This is bigger than a project. It is a system that combines a long test, major essay, quizzes and even homeworks.

We’re not doing Pisay Meets World, Tianxiaverse or even War of the Emperors.

What we’re doing has no name yet. It will be done through all four quarters, and will end with something huge.

For this year, my students will be writing their own “textbook” on the course. I don’t have a name for it yet though so I’d like you to help me out by reading the entry and then suggesting a good name for it. My inspiration for this is partly Wikipedia and the fact that I don’t use any of our locally made textbooks for my course.

My concept is simple: At the beginning of every quarter, I give them a loose outline of the contents for the quarter. The outline will require material good for one to two chapters. Using this outline, they fill it in with historical data, analysis, pictures, notes, summaries and reflections. They work on this throughout the entire quarter, and I check up on their progress every now and then.

For an idea of what an outline will be like, check out the description of the First Quarter in Finally, some ideas for next school year!What you see there is basically the outline I will give them for the first quarter.

The entire thing is 40% of their class standing every quarter. Occasional check ups will be similar to quizzes. The accuracy of their data and analysis will be checked like a long test. And the various summaries and reflections will be considered a major essay (or special assignment for Batch ’08).

But don’t get me wrong. This is not a portfolio. This is not a compilation of different requirements, notes or sources. They are to come up with a unified body of work based on an outline. I will give incentives to those who go beyond the demands of the outline (to a certain degree), and I will also encourage those who wish to ‘remix’ the outline and give it their own spin. Knowledge of current events will also be integrated in the outline.

Here is how I plan to implement this. We begin by building the basics in the first quarter, then expand the tasks as we go along. It all ends up with a wiki site in the fourth quarter.

First Quarter: Each student will work on the outline independently. I will place emphasis on detail and citing sources, basically giving them a feel of the output I want to see. Then I evaluate each one and assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Second Quarter: They now work by groups of five based on the different elements of the upcoming Daoism-based class system. Their elements will determine their tasks and one group will have one output. Each person’s grade will be 50% group grade + 50% individual performance.

Third Quarter: They will still work as groups, but now there will be a stronger focus on their interpretation of the material. I would encourage them to use their own artwork to illustrate the concepts, and to even create games and puzzles.

Fourth Quarter: They will still work as groups, but now the groups will have to collaborate with one another. They will be working on an online wiki site (we already have an account) to which individuals or groups can contribute to. Topics will be distributed to minimize duplication and one class will have one output. It will also be a contest among my sections. Each person’s grade will be 50% class grade + 50% individual performance.

Since this entire requirement is 40% of their class standing, the remaining components will be broken down as: 30% long exam (can either be a written long test or an oral presentation) and 30% participation (recitation, class activities, short essays [1 page max], and a new addition, open debates). The periodic exam at the end of the quarter will be 30% objective and 70% essay.

Basically, this structures everything I’ve been doing in my classes so far, but with a stronger emphasis on integrating various ideas and topics, encouraging them to seek out sources and new material, and allowing them to interpret the concepts we study in class.

This may sound daunting right now, but I imagine that it would go over well once it is executed. We start out slow and build the basics in the first quarter, then we raise the bar as we go through the quarters.

Because of the intensity of this activity, there will be no other projects this year. I won’t be doing Asian Spirits in my classes again (sorry, Ellie!) but will float the idea to the Humanities Week committee or even Aksis (but we’ll be busy with other things).

I’ll be doing that Great Wall activity I’ve mentioned to some of my ’09 sections when I said goodbye. It will be ’10’s 2nd quarter long test.

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