Yesterday I attended a presentation as part of my college’s “Talk about Teaching” series. This panel was about signature assignments used to promote transferable skills within the classroom. All four of the panelists had amazing assignments that stood out because of their engagement, creativity, and clear goals. The first presentation was from a Sociology professor that focused on getting students to understand the complexity of communication. She had us all participate in the activity in pairs, each pair getting a set of images that had six slight differences between the two and without seeing each other’s images describe our image and discuss together what we saw to see if we could discover all six differences–my group only located 3 as part of this exercise. It was a fun activity that demonstrated the level of detail needed to clearly communicate. The second presentation was part of an FYE class in which students are asked to create an imaginary alumni–their career, lifestyle etc–and then create an imagined experience for them in there time at Wesleyan–their major, the general studies classes they took, the activities they participated in. It was a great way to help students see how the decisions that they make can lead to specific futures, without putting pressure on them to have THEIR plan all figured out yet.
The next presentation came from a Chemistry professor who shared an assignment she does with her bio-chemistry students. Explaining that starting a new discipline in science is often like learning a new language–literally in terms of all the new terms you encounter–she has students complete a creative project in which they have to choose a song and write new lyrics that describe a bio-chemical process, or write about a bio-chemical process or idea for an elementary or junior high audience, or to create a story in which a bio-chemical unit is the protagonist in a story. The examples she showed from students were inspired and I was blown away be their creativity. She suggested that this project helped students better understand the unfamiliar terms and helped them ensure that they could communicate with them or about them with confidence. I was so excited by these projects; many were in print form, or she said, delivered by oral presentation. As I learn more about digital communication and multimodal composition, I’d love to see if there might be room in the future with partnerships between the writing center and this class to support digital projects as well.
The final presentation was from an Art History professor who talked about an assignment she does in an American Art class. She assigns students actual questions from the Naturalization test and asks them to find a related image from the Art History textbook. She encourages unconventional as opposed to obvious connections. I’ve seen this skill on display in my own course this semester. I asked my students to chose a commercial that invoked the American Dream. Many chose unconventional or not obvious ads and I loved seeing the creative connections they were able to draw.
All in all, I was completely energized by this presentation. It was fantastic to see all the great work being done by my colleagues. It not only inspires me to strive to create engaging and creative assignments in my own classes, but also to find ways that the writing center can support these creative efforts across the college.