Blog Post

Adventures in Student-Generated Learning: A Case Study

Adventures in student-generated learning:  a case-study

Beth Benedix, Professor of World Literature, Religious Studies and Community Engagement, DePauw University; Emma Houston, rising senior DePauw University; Jacob Correa, rising junior, DePauw University

The course material only matters if it matters to you and you can make it matter to someone else.

This is a phrase I find myself uttering on the first day of classes and in subsequent meetings with students, a mantra/pep talk that has come to serve as the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy.  There was the skeleton of the thing already in place when I was a graduate student, but it’s taken me twenty years to flesh out what this viscerally felt conviction—starting to take shape for me through the name “student-generated learning”— might look like if I were to embed it in every aspect of my courses. By student-generated learning,  I mean learning in which students are encouraged and guided in a process 1) to articulate their own “why?” (their own investment in and way of processing the course material we encounter) and 2) to package the stories they go on to tell about and through the course material for an audience beyond the classroom.  I use the term “stories” deliberately; I try to help my students consider every piece of writing, in any media they choose, in terms of its narrative arc. 

I am a strong proponent of and advocate for project-based learning.  Student-generated learning builds on PBL to the extent that it begins with the posing of authentic, relevant problems as a foundation for engagement with course material, and that it is primarily collaborative and community-based. Student-generated learning moves beyond the PBL model in that it involves students in every step in the process and seeks to maximize opportunities for differentiated learning.  In the PBL model, problems are brought to students to solve; the student-generated model begins with the problems that students identify for themselves as most pressing and relevant.  I want to acknowledge at the outset that, as a full professor, I have perhaps more freedom and leeway to design my courses.  Even so, I share this case-study with the hopes of inspiring educators in all phases of their careers to create classrooms that provide the space for every student to engage with the course material on his or her own terms and that channel these independent encounters into a collaborative experience.  As with any class, so much of the experience I’m about to share is dependent upon the unique chemistry of the group. The highlighted course is an honors seminar, but I have had equally positive results in a number of other, much larger,  (non-honors) courses in which I have implemented similar strategies.

The course:  HONR 300 (The Legacy of Nietzsche and Kafka).  The course served 10 undergraduates, primarily sophomores and juniors, looking to fulfill the honors requirement for an interdisciplinary seminar in arts and humanities.  The course met three days a week for an hour each day.  As the (appended) syllabus suggests, course content and rigor need not be sacrificed to create a student-generated experience.  We covered a great deal of ground, and worked at a pace that allowed us to engage with a comparable number of texts to those in my courses that have not used this open format.  In fact, in my experience, the level of rigor, the depth of classroom discussion and the quality of student work (both independent and collaborative) have increased significantly as students become personally invested in the material. The course description, expectations and requirements, and learning contract comprise the philosophical grounding for the class.  The syllabus is designed to immediately throw students into and build excitement around the course material, and to indicate that the texts themselves will be at the forefront of the experience, a means of announcing embodied close reading as a primary learning objective for the course.

Central to the syllabus, and to the ethos of this course and all courses I now teach is the learning contract, the result of a full reckoning with myself of what I believe my role as a teacher should be.  In my view, I am a fellow traveler who happens, through an accident of time, to have begun the journey before my students.  By virtue of my having been on the path longer, and having spent years delving into the material independently that we are about to embark on together, I have well-considered, grounded-in-the-text opinions. I share these opinions freely, but it’s not the point for students to adopt my way of looking at the text.  I share my sense of my role in the learning contract:  “My role, as I see it, is to nurture your curiosity, provide us with food for thought, help you to shape your ideas into a form that you find relevant and challenging, and be an honest judge of the quality of your work and the level of your mastery of the material.  In this light, grades will be determined through a guided self-assessment approach.  I will provide you with feedback on your portfolio and a rubric to help you think through how to attach a grade to your performance  At the end of the semester, you will write a rationale for the grade you believe you have earned, using this feedback and rubric as a guide.”

On the first day of class each semester, I provide students with the self-assessment rubric (appended) and encourage students to familiarize themselves with the criteria; over the course of the semester, I gesture back continuously to these expectations.  Since the first time I implemented it several years ago, this rubric has been an ever-evolving document, adapting each semester to better reflect my intended outcomes and to prompt students to dig ever more deeply into the course material.  The document is designed to remind them that everything we do in our course—from independent projects to group projects and discussions—should be an exercise in embodied close reading.  Everything we do is in the service of making the material come to life for them and others. 

To scaffold this process, I meet with students one-on-one throughout the semester to discuss their experience reading the material (which they chronicle, for themselves, in their reading journals… I never look at these journals because I want them to truly reflect students’ own unmediated encounter with the material), then help them to identify the core patterns in their thinking and questions they’re most compelled by to shape independent projects.  This is a process I have used in all of my classes for the last six years.  This semester, I wanted to leave room and space for these independent projects to coalesce into a collaborative project, where students could apply their independent insights to the co-ideation and implementation of an event that they felt communicated the conceptual space of the course to a general audience.  In this case, students decided they wanted their audience (à la Kafka and Nietzsche) to feel that they were being judged and sentenced without an understanding of the criteria for judgment.  They constructed “Journey into Absurdity:  An Escape Game,” an extravaganza that involved—on the evening classes ended—transforming the oldest building on campus (legend says it’s haunted) into a series of Nietzsche and Kafka themed rooms requiring some sort of action on the part of participants (though it’s never clear what kind of action is required of them) culminating in a “trial” by candlelight in the haunted chapel. Over 30 students outside of our class attended and stayed until midnight, holding a near-raucous conversation about the philosophical conundrums they just encountered.  More details will be included in the student narratives that follow.

The format of this class—a deep-dive into content chosen by me for the first half of the semester, followed by a combination of student-led discussions that introduced new content related conceptually to what we had just encountered and collaborative event planning—was an experiment that I was eager to try, inspired by The New Education and Cathy Davidson’s suggestion to collectively design the syllabus. My courses have always been designed to promote active, student-centered learning, but this experiment provided the chance to maximize that learning in the most organic way.  I utilized the same format in my other (non-honors) course on the literature of existentialism, with similarly exciting results (that course culminated in a three-day “Existential Palooza”).  Based on the dynamic energy manifested in independent projects, class discussions, collaborative events, self-assessment narratives and course evaluations (where students reported a deep investment in the course and course material, which they feel they have learned in ways that are thoroughly connected to their lives), I plan to structure my courses similarly next semester.   

What follows are narratives that capture the experience from two students’ perspectives.

Emma:

On the first day of class, we wrote on a note card what we wanted to get out of the course. I wrote that I wanted to leave with more questions than I entered with, and that certainly happened. This type of class structure cultivated curiosity. The most remarkable part, for me, was that because I was researching and writing about the things that were important to me, the class felt more like an extension of my life, rather than a separate academic pursuit, as often happens in more strictly teacher-driven courses. Most of the issues I grappled with stemmed from questions I already had before the semester started, but an impressive number of my pursuits came from entirely new information that I had encountered during the semester, whether in this class or others. Because I directed my own project, I naturally created a learning experience that felt more interdisciplinary – I integrated sources and materials that I’d found in other courses past and present so that my project felt meaningful and worthwhile. 

From the beginning of the class, it was clear that we were entering into a collaborative space. During the first meeting, we created a class constitution that would guide our learning – so from the beginning, the space was student-centered and collaborative. I remember hesitation when discovering that the second half of the course would be dedicated largely to developing our own event meant to transmit the legacy of Nietzsche and Kafka. I had never participated in a similarly-structured class, and to someone who grows up in teacher-centered educational models, the prospect of taking on a student-centered project for the first time can be intimidating. But we did it, and it was so easy!  

Growing up as an exemplary obeyer of rules, I rarely took risks in the classroom. That’s why for me, Beth’s class was so freeing, because risk-taking was part of the grading criteria. So when faced with the prospect of developing my own project, I went with what I knew and wrote an essay. But unlike the literary analysis papers that I write on a regular basis for my literature classes, with Beth’s encouragement, I took a more informal, process-based approach with relaxed language and ample self-reflection. The opportunity to create any kind of project that I wanted proved daunting, but with Beth’s help in one-on-one meetings, I had the confidence to drive my project wherever it went. The paper, called “Rethinking the Educator’s Responsibility through Nietzsche’s Eyes,” consisted of me asking myself what kind of education system Nietzsche would build. Inspired by the correlation between Nietzsche’s “three metamorphoses of the spirit” from camel to lion to child (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and William Perry’s model of intellectual development for college-aged students, I detailed my own struggles with dogmatic thinking. Really, I’m trying to find out what we could do with an education system run by community-based teachers who value differentiated, student-based learning, encouraging question-builders rather than rule-followers.

This project has become the beginning of my senior Honors thesis, a research and community-based curriculum for talking about identity and race with middle school students in a majority white area. And this kind of extensive development is exactly what can happen when you allow students to drive their own projects, because once they feel involved and supported, they create work that really means something to them, rather than just surface-level and hypothetical essays. 

For me, the one-on-one meetings with the instructor were instrumental in guiding my participation in the class and ensuring that I developed my ideas fully and in a way that would contribute to group learning. With Beth’s guidance, I became more aware of my own role in the class, and strove to challenge that role and deepen my understanding not only of the material, but also of my peers. Actually, the skill of self-reflection represented my greatest takeaway. 

As a future educator, I look to Beth as inspiration for leading thought-provoking and meaningful class discussions. This course’s setup changed the way I think about the education profession and the teacher’s role in it, and I hope to implement at least some of Beth’s strategies into my career.

Jacob: 

My life has absolutely shifted in perspective and has grown into a more productive and meaningful experience as a result of my Honor Scholar Course, HONR 300 AAThe Legacy of Nietzsche & Kafka. It is important to note that the root factors that played into my successful learning experience was the organization of the course, from the material expectations, one-on-one meetings, and independent projects to the collaborative project. I can truthfully say that this course has been, by far, the most influential course in my college career. My connections and ideas conceived within the class was fueled through my curiosity in Nietzsche’s and Kafka’s existentialist material, but shaped and paved through the help of Prof. Benedix.

Within the course, we held a reading journal to help us note down our ideas, connections, and the things that stood out most to us when covering Nietzsche and Kafka. This served as a useful tool to gather my understanding of the material. More importantly, I used the reading journal as a way to connect Nietzsche and Kafka towards the questions that occupied my mind the most. I brought these questions and my own understanding of Nietzsche and Kafka to our professor, as a result this helped me shape my other class projects. 

Professor Benedix formulated the course in having mandatory one-on-one conversations periodically throughout the semester. These one-on-one conversations were the most informative, emotionally-supportive, and empathetic/relatable moments that allowed for further development, from the independent portfolios, text interpretations, to even personal connections. The topics covered from the one-on-one conversations led me to a better understanding, higher confidence, and more detailed path within my independent portfolios. We initially discussed my interpretations and notes I jotted down within my reading journal and then connected that to the ideas I would like to deconstruct within Nietzsche and Kafka. The essence of the conversations were so that our ideas in creating the projects were fine-tuned by Professor Benedix. 

If it were not for the one-on-one conversations with our professor, I would not have experienced such growth within my academic career, personal development, and professional career. The projects and guidance provided by Prof. Benedix allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and create projects I have never done before. My approach towards Nietzsche and Kafka surrounded the ideas of spirituality and autonomy. Specifically for the first independent portfolio project, I constructed a multimedia exhibit with photographs of me meditating and a textual interpretation inspired by Nietzsche’s analysis of conscience and its connections to Buddhism. The second independent portfolio project took the form of a podcast in which I attempted to deconstruct the term “kafkaesque” through my understanding of Kafka’s notion of autonomy and how this relates to my own entrepreneurial pursuits. The nature of the class motivated us to step outside of our comfort zone and that is exactly what I did with my portfolio projects. 

Growth does not occur while being comfortable. I wanted to try a new manner of expressing my ideas and the independent portfolio projects allowed me to do so. The photography part of my first project was a risk for me to try new things, especially when presenting my photographs to the public. It gave me a sense of confidence and a higher insight into my own curiosity and potential for relating ideas to an audience. Furthermore, curating a podcast was a huge step outside of my comfort zone. It allowed me to successfully communicate Kafka’s understanding of the world. By referencing certain texts as well as defining his tone of writing, the podcast gave a foundational knowledge of his existentialist work to the audience. I then added my own personal connection within the podcast by describing the way autonomy fits into the definition of “kafkaesque” and how it has inspired me to pursue my entrepreneurial goals. 

During the latter part of the course, Professor Benedix assigned leading class discussion as a necessary part for all students. In my opinion, this experience allowed us to further step outside of our comfort zone by expressing our ideas, connections, and interpretations of the material to the entire course in a totally different manner. Even more, leading class discussion were due before the portfolios, therefore it served as a perfect soundboard for students’ ideas and connections of the material. As a result of my discussion, the feedback I received from Prof. Benedix and my fellow students allowed me to analyze the portions that may need better explaining for my portfolio projects, and also a critique to orient the discussion a little better so that the audience can fully understand where I am coming from. Often times, students are not given the full autonomy, free of barriers and control, to take class discussion in a certain direction. This opportunity to lead discussion gave us, students, the freedom to portray our own ideas and connections of the material. 

The feedback from Professor Benedix given for the course assignments motivated me even more to take ownership of my ability in expressing my ideas, thus helping me to form my summer entrepreneurial experience. This course and the learning environment that shaped it allowed for me to have such a positive and impactful experience on my life. As a result, I set aside my summer for personal growth in all areas of my life, taking a very existential approach. 

After the semester ended, I had the opportunity to travel to Prague in Czech Republic, where Franz Kafka lived. This opportunity sprang forth my summer experience for spiritual growth and autonomy, especially visiting the significant landmarks of Prague but more importantly, experiencing the places and statues of Franz Kafka. As I visited with my family, I attempted to explain the importance of Kafka’s existentialism to my family and especially the way it relates to the stressful corporate reality of a 9 to 5 job experience. That is where I explained to my family what I planned to do over the summer and how that would be transformative to my entire being. 

All in all, my experience of curating projects that tied in my personal interests to the material allowed me to have a unique learning experience. The material, itself, and the manner in which I analyzed the material will forever be remembered.

Collaborative Narrative (Journey into Absurdity: An Escape Game Project): 

Halfway through the course, the dynamic shifted as we moved from our independent projects into a collaborative space. It seems fitting, then, to compose this paragraph together to model the structure of the class during this time. With the only parameters from Beth being that we create an event to bring Nietzsche and Kafka’s legacy to campus, we set off on the Journey into Absurdity: An Escape Game. From start to finish, every member of the class collaborated on planning and organizing the extravaganza. We intended to create a space that would immerse students in the works of Nietzsche and Kafka, and what resulted was a maze-like midnight of absurd experiences, including some Nietzschean musings and Kafkaesque role-played stories. At the night’s conclusion, the entire class staged an interrogation of the participants straight out of Kafka’s The Trial. Overall, the experience of a collaborative project allowed for us to better know and work with each other, therefore, producing a more coherent and mutually beneficial learning environment. 

 

Appendix 1:  Syllabus

Beth Benedix

Office:  Asbury Hall 5

Office Hours: MW: 1:30-2:45, Thurs: 1-3, and by appointment

Cell:  (765) 719-2069

Email:  bbenedix@depauw.edu

Texts: 

1.  Nietzsche, Basic Writings 

2.  The Portable Nietzsche 

3. The Basic Kafka 

4. Kafka,  The Collected Stories 

5. Kafka, The Trial 

6. Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche 

7. Pawel, Nightmare of Reason 

8. Prideaux, I am Dynamite:  A Life of Nietzsche (recommended)

Course Description:

When Nietzsche’s madman frantically proclaimed, “God is dead and we have killed him,” he shattered the categories of Western philosophy, forcing his audience into a space of urgency, accusation, freedom and possibility—a mode that took on a clear and present danger in Hitler’s Germany, and that inspired –and continues to inspire— acts and art both beautiful and terrifying.   Nietzsche’s mark is everywhere in the world around us—in this current climate so desperately calling for a revaluation of all values.  Likewise, Kafka, who gave to the world a vision at once breathtakingly original and thoroughly prescient, a vivid description of the values that enslave us, of bureaucracy, red-tape and corporate culture and the stripping away of all that is human.  This course is a deep-dive into the work of both of these extraordinarily influential thinkers, and into the many ways their legacies live on.

Expectations and Requirements:

The overarching premise of this class:  none of this material means anything unless 1) it means something to you and 2) we can make it mean something to a general audience. Nietzsche and Kafka have left their marks on the world in the most embodied and concrete ways, so none of this should feel dry and theoretical.  If it does, we’re doing it wrong!  Everything, then, that we do in this class should be in the service of making meaning, of making this material come to life beyond the page.

Nietzsche famously charged his readers to “live dangerously”—the “secret,” as he describes it, “for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment.”  Well, we’re going to take him up on that this semester, experimenting with course design in a way that I hope will get us into a space of creative danger. The basic frame of the course is this:  the first half of the semester will be a deep-dive into the work of Nietzsche and Kafka, where we’ll be getting as familiar as we can with the space and shape of their thinking, how they position themselves in and against the worlds they’re living in, their persistent concerns and visions.  We will design the second half of the class together, with the primary tasks 1) of searching out where we see Nietzsche and Kafka’s mark in today’s world, and 2) of building a collaborative event (to be determined by you) aimed at a general audience that brings this audience into the conversation we’ve been having all semester. 

We will construct a class constitution on the first day, where we’ll nail down the individual and collective learning outcomes we’re hoping to achieve, and, in that process, we will all determine together how class time will be shaped.

The set of assignments I propose are rooted in several goals:  1) that you will have the chance independently to work closely with and wrestle with the course material, 2) that you will have the chance to pursue independent projects (in media determined by you, in consultation with me) that are tailored to the questions/issues you find, and 3) that you will have the chance to bring the insights you’ve come to through these independent projects into the culminating collaborative project.

In that regard, I am asking you to keep a reading/writing journal throughout the semester, which will serve as a place for you to collect your thoughts, record your musings, remind yourself of passages in the reading you’d like to revisit with the group, provide commentary, ask questions, allow yourself to meander and get lost in the material, and try out ideas you have for your more formal writing.  I will never collect this journal… it’s meant entirely as a way to help flesh out your ideas. I will, however, meet with you for one-on-one sessions to talk about your journals periodically throughout the semester and to help you brainstorm ideas for your projects.  These journals will form the seedbed for two independent projects aimed at a general audience, one focusing on Nietzsche, the other on Kafka.  We’ll use a portfolio approach for these projects:  I’ll meet with you to brainstorm and to talk through drafts, and both final products will be due April 15th.

Learning Contract: 

I am a proponent of the power of intrinsic motivation over external rewards.  Meaning:  your reading and writing won’t count for much if you’re not passionately engaged in what you’re reading and writing about.  Grades have precious little to do with all that, and the judgment involved in my bestowing a grade upon you might in fact serve as counterproductive:  keeping you from taking the risks in your writing you need to take to become a stronger writer and from pursuing the questions and topics that you find most intriguing and meaningful.  At the same time, as with any class, there is a body of material—content—that you need to come away with. My role, as I see it, is to nurture your curiosity, provide us with food for thought, help you to shape your ideas into a form that you find relevant and challenging, and be an honest judge of the quality of your work and the level of your mastery of the material.  In this light, grades will be determined through a guided self-assessment approach.  I will provide you with feedback on your portfolio and a rubric to help you think through how to attach a grade to your performance, and we will determine together the criteria for assessing the second half of the semester.  At the end of the semester, you will write a rationale for the grade you believe you have earned, using this feedback and rubric as a guide.  I reserve the right to modify this grade if the grade you assign yourself differs markedly from my perception of your performance in the class.

**** Please don’t hesitate to come to my office hours if you have any questions or concerns. The door is always open.

Class Schedule:

Jan    29     Introduction to course/Class Constitution

          30     Translator’s Introduction and “Attempt at Self Criticism” (from Birth of Tragedy, in BWN);                                                 Hiking with Nietzsche, “Prologue” and “How the Journey Began”

Feb    2     Seventy Five Aphorisms from Five Volumes (in BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “Enduring                                                 Companions"

          5     Excerpts from The Dawn (PN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “The Last Man”

          7     Excerpts from The Gay Science (PN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “The Eternal Return”

          9     Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue and “On The Three Metamorphoses” (PN);                                                                  Hiking with Nietzsche, "Zarathustra in Love"

          12     Beyond Good and Evil, Preface and Part Nine (“What is Noble”) (BWN);                                                                           Hiking with Nietzsche, “On the Mountain”

          14     Genealogy of Morals, Preface and First Essay (BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “On Genealogy”

          16     Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay (BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “Decadence and Disgust”

One-on-one meetings this week and next to talk about journals and brainstorm for Nietzsche project

          19     The Case of Wagner (BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “The Abysmal Hotel”

           21     Ecce Homo (BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “The Horse” and “Behold the Man”

           23     Ecce Homo (BWN); Hiking with Nietzsche, “Steppenwolf,” “Become Who You Are,” and Epilogue

           26     “The Judgment”; Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 1 and 2

           28     “The Metamorphosis” (Part One); Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 3 and 4

Mar     2     “The Metamorphosis” (Part Two); Nightmare of Reason, Chapter 5

           5     “In the Penal Colony”; Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 10 and 11

           7     “County Doctor”; Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 13 and 14

           9     “Hunger Artist”; Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 16 and 17

One-on-one meetings this week and next to talk about journals and brainstorm for Kafka project

           12     The Trial (Arrest, Conversation with FG then FB, Initial Inquiry); Nightmare of Reason,                                                    Chapters 18 and 19

           14     The Trial (In the Empty Courtroom, The Student, The Offices, The Flogger); Nightmare of                                               Reason, Chapters 21 and 22

           16     The Trial (The Uncle, Leni, Lawyer, Manufacturer, Painter); Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 22                                      and 23

           19     The Trial (Block, Dismissal of the Lawyer); Nightmare of Reason, Chapters 24 and 25                

           21     The Trial (In the Cathedral, The End); Nightmare of Reason, Chapter 26         

           23     Selected Parables; Nightmare of Reason, Chapter 27                                                                   

                        ******Spring Break:  March 23 through March 31*******

Apr     1      Conceptual brainstorm/Design rest of class with goals of 1) exploring legacies of                                                              Nietzsche and Kafka and 2) developing collaborative event    

           3     Information session with Center Directors

           5     Groupwork on proposals

one-on-one meetings this week to discuss drafts of independent projects

           8     Groups pitch proposals/Class vote/Class tweaking

           10    (from this point on, each class period was divided between student-led sessions and event                                  planning   

 

Appendix 2:  Guided Self-Assessment Criteria

HONR 300:  The Legacy of Nietzsche and Kafka                                                                                                              Guidelines for Guided Self-Assessment  

Due:  May 16 (please email a Word document to me: bbenedix@depauw.edu)

As we agreed in our learning contract, your grades will be determined through a guided self-assessment approach.  Remember that our basic mode in this class is to make the material come alive, and the attendant act of close reading.  My objective for each assignment has been to provide you with the maximum opportunity for you to guide the shape of your own learning and to take your curiosity in the material where you want it to go.  My hope is that your projects have built on one another and helped you to deepen your own understanding of the material.  My hope is also that you have challenged yourself to take risks and to pursue questions and topics and strategies that may be unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable to you.

Self-assessment, as a general rule, is an exercise in self-awareness and accountability.  At the end of the day, though, it also has to be an issue of justice and equity.  In other words, it is unfair for someone who has not done the work and who lacks the willingness to be self-critical to receive the same grade as someone who has done the work and has taken the time to reflect on that work seriously.  Here’s where I come into the mix:  consider me your mirror on the wall/polygraph.  I am here to help you see the truth.  As I suggest on the syllabus, “my role, as I see it, is to nurture your curiosity, provide us with food for thought, help you to shape your ideas into a form that you find relevant and challenging, and be an honest judge of the quality of your work and the level of your mastery of the material. I therefore reserve the right to modify your grade if your assessment differs markedly from my perception of your performance in class.”

Your self-assessment should provide a thorough reflection and grade for each of your assignments (you will probably need at least a page of reflection for each assignment).  Please consider the following in your reflection:

 1) Reading journal  (suggested percentage of final grade:  5%)

 --how consistent were you in keeping this journal? 

 --did it serve, as recommended, as a companion to your reading?

 --did you use the journal purposefully?  Did you use it to pose questions, pursue issues raised in class, as a place to collect your thoughts and interpretations of the material?

 --do your entries reflect curiosity?

 2) One-on-one conversations (suggested percentage of final grade:  10%)

--did you show up?

--did you come prepared with questions and topics you raise in your journal and wanted to pursue further?

--did you come away with a richer understanding of your own questions/concerns/curiosities?                                       

--was it a productive/meaningful use of your time?

3) Independent Portfolio (suggested percentage of final grade:  40%...20% each)

--did you wrestle closely with your chosen text(s), reading attentively with an eye towards the details?  Did you bring the text(s) explicitly into your piece?

-- did you find ways to make the text(s) relevant and compelling to a general audience? 

--are there high stakes and implications for your piece?

--did you effectively show ways in which Nietzsche and Kafka are visible in the world?

--did you choose a medium that matches the story you’re trying to tell through these pieces?

--did these pieces stretch your thinking in new ways?

--did you take risks?

--did you take feedback into account in your final product?

--if you weren’t the creator of these pieces, would you be drawn into them?

4) Day-to-day performance in class (suggested percentage of final grade: 15%)

--Did you attend class regularly?

--How much preparation did you do for class? 

--Did you complete the assigned reading?  Prepare questions for class? 

--were you engaged in the class?  Did you demonstrate this engagement in substantive, meaningful and constructive ways?

--Did you participate regularly and thoughtfully in discussion?  What was the nature of your participation?  What role would you say you played in class?

5) Collaborative project (suggested percentage of final grade: 15%)

--Were you an active participant in the brainstorming and planning of the project?

--did you take on an active role in bringing the project to life?

--how would you describe your role?  What did you contribute to the project?

--were you present and engaged and excited to share the experience with people beyond our class?

6) Leading of class discussion/interactive activity (suggested percentage of final grade: 15%)

--Did you bring something extra into the mix to help us to understand the legacy of Kafka and Nietzsche?

--Did you make explicit connections to the course material?

--Did you provide the class with creative/interesting ways to think about the material and to help facilitate “a-ha” moments?

The grade you assign yourself for the class—and the rationale you provide to justify that grade—will be based on your responses to these questions above. I would like to see a quantitative measure (based on the suggested percentages, for each assignment… what percentage out of 100%, in other words, have you earned). Please consult this rubric as you make your final evaluation (you can assign yourself plusses and minuses as well): 

An “A” should be awarded for consistently thoughtful, introspective, rigorous, engaged work.  If you give yourself an A, it means that you’ve completed all assignments in a timely and thorough manner, come to class regularly, participated heavily and meaningfully in class discussion, and challenged yourself to take on difficult questions and make the material your own. Your work is consistently well executed and demonstrates creativity, high expectations and an element of risk-taking.  You are leaving this class feeling that you have gained a rich understanding of the material, and that you have maximized every opportunity available to you.   Note:  this is NOT the default grade:  an A should be reserved for truly excellent work.

A “B” should be awarded for solid performance in class participation and assigned work.  You have completed all assignments in a timely manner, come to class regularly and contributed frequently to discussions.  Your work clearly demonstrates preparation and effort, but might not be as well-executed, thorough, or creative as  “A” work would be.  Overall, you feel like you’re coming away from this class with solid literacy of the concepts and material we’ve covered.  If someone were to ask you to define and describe the course content, you would be able to do this.

A “C” in this class means you’re phoning it in.  You may not come to class regularly and may not have kept up with the reading.  Your participation in class is infrequent.  You’ve completed the assignments, but haven’t really challenged yourself to take on questions or topics that go beyond the surface of the material.   You’re not sure what you’re taking away from the class with regard to the material, and know that you could have challenged yourself more.

A “D” in this class means that you just haven’t done the work.  You don’t come to class regularly or keep up with the reading.  You may have missed assignments or completed them in a haphazard or half-hearted way, not really taking the time to think about the larger picture.  You don’t feel like you’re taking away much of anything from the class. 

An “F” in this class… would make me very sad.  This means you haven’t completed the work or put in the time.  You’re leaving the class feeling like you haven’t learned anything at all.

                       

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