Meaningful Homework Assignments in an Open Content world

No quizzes, no exams

I don’t do quizzes anymore, or exams. Most of the assignments are of the kind “interact with these materials, summarize, analyze, and assess”. There are questions, but also simple reductions and “what is the most important”, “turn that into a set of guidelines”, and basic behavior changes (such as writing better, following protocols, mastery of tools and materials).

Open content world?

But what happens in an open content world? I can assume that very soon, if not now, every assignment deliverable is within reach of every student, without doing the work. As my teaching moves permanently online, this material will become more widely available.

It’s not the deliverables

I never really did care much about most of the deliverables, the actual assignments. They were always a means to an end, namely engaging with the material, having experiences and an opportunity to reflect. And in the best of times, an opportunity to correct or inform me, to engage me and make me think. But these deliverables were always also evidence of that engagement. They were the basis, the content, which I could evaluate and assess. And they also informed upcoming assignments as well as past teaching practices and the assignments themselves–whether they were working and what needed improvement.

Bottom line

If I cannot trust that what they give is evidence of engagement, what will constitute that evidence? In what ways should the assignments be transformed in order to remain authentic evidence as well as the vehicle for engaged experience and feedback?

Initial thoughts

  • They need to be regarding recent phenomena, therefore requiring a modicum of customization of the assignment
  • They need to be interactions among randomly assigned teams, with their communication and conversation the evidential element
  • They should focus on habits, as those cannot be faked
  • They should require personal or unique expressions of the self or social world in which the student is embedded

And that leaves us…

Dear reader, I need your insights. Please share any thoughts you may have…

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0 thoughts on “Meaningful Homework Assignments in an Open Content world

  1. Hey Jeff:
    I think your philosophy of no quizzes and exams is an excellent idea and one that does not follow traditional learning practices. Usually quizzes and tests, question our knowledge of how much we know or remember at that time and usually benefit those who are good at taking them. Some of us remember what we learn but many of us won’t remember once the class is over. Meaningful assignments took education to the next level. It allowed us to take the information that we read, put it into guidelines, and break our habits by following those guidelines. It wasn’t that we practiced it only once, we were given multiple opportunities to focus and master the material.
    As for deliverables, traditional learning practices teach think by ourselves. With an open content world, I agree that we have to use that as a basis to collaborate with others to get those ideas, get feedback and make those ideas better. Engaging with others, we teach eachother and teach ourselves and we come up with better ideas then that we would on our own.
    We need us what we used in the past as a basis to grow, develop and change our habits.

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