Last fall, in the last week of the semester, I had my students turn in a bibliography assignment. Essentially, they had to brainstorm an imaginary paper and find sources for it. The objective was to get them to practice research skills and get some feedback on their research skills before they were in a place where it really mattered. I graded it pretty much on effort, not quality. They didn’t even need to read any sources, maybe just skim an encyclopedia article.

I loved this assignment. Let’s count up the benefits:

  1. the students learned something (some of them even told me so)
  2. yet it was a low-pressure thing for them to do at the end of term
  3. it was easy for me to grade
  4. yet it was equally easy for me to give real and useful feedback
  5. giving useful feedback quickly and easily made me feel virtuous and happy
  6. students wrote evaluations having just received back an assignment that I turned around in two days
  7. students wrote evaluations having just received an A on a 10% assignment

We’ll see if that makes a difference to the numbers, but I can’t believe it will hurt.