How to Outsource Your Grading and Look (and Feel) Good Doing It

Person crowdsurfing at a music festival in Germany against a night sky, hands in the hook'em horns position

Or, The Power of Crowdsourcing Assessment.

Like a lot of instructors at UT, I have required presentations in my classes and over the years, these presentations have taken a lot of different forms, from three solid days of argumentative presentations to close out the semester in my first-year writing class, to having students introduce a critical section of the text and lead discussion in my current literature class. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the way I assess presentations. Which is to say: I don't.

On the Virtues of Student Presentations

A teacher points to a chalkboard with chalk while reaching toward the viewer with other hand

I currently teach Banned Books and Novel Ideas here at the University of Texas, a required course that is intended for undergraduates just commencing work in the major. The reading on my syllabus tends toward Slavic texts, namely various selections from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Nabokov. Such texts are challenging for students – both in terms of my students’ ability to decode the layers of irony spouted off by such characters as Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, and also in terms of the way these works often spotlight regional pride and arrogance.

Oral Presentation by Peers

Podium outside the Capitol

I’m teaching an upper-division rhetorical theory course about legal rhetoric that requires students to write a 2,500-4,000 word research paper in which they rhetorically analyze two or more opposing arguments regarding an evidentiary controversy in a forensic dispute (typically this will be a trial or similar proceeding), and critique or extend a particular theory of forensic rhetoric as it applies to the rhetorical analysis they provide. This is a staged writing assignment that begins about a thirdd of the way through the semester and is concluded at the end of the semester.

The Pedagogy of LOL

Photo of black cat glaring with text Happy Cat is ready for judgement day

Like most writing teachers, I like incorporating informal writing assignments into my class in order to make my students comfortable with writing casually and in the moment, without the the threat of a bad grade stifling their process. One way I've done this in my Banned Books class this semester is by requiring them to post a blog entry on the day's reading at least once during the semester.

Bringing the Blog to the Classroom: Special-Topics Blogging and Presentations

Photo of student giving a PowerPoint presentation

Since the beginning of my time instructing students in rhetoric and English courses, I have found that students are much more successful at communicating and developing their ideas when they become more aware that their writing is geared toward a concrete audience. I have also found that writing skills improve significantly when students learn to articulate their ideas in a variety of situations and formats.

Teaching Ethos with No Impact Man

Colin Beavan makes an ethical appeal during a public talk

This semester I’ve had my students teach each other key terms and concepts in rhetoric during weekly student presentations. After each presentation, I plan an activity designed to put the concepts just learned into practice, often using a text I provide or one from their research projects. I designed one such activity on “Ethos in No Impact Man” with specific attention to problems former students have had with ethical appeals.

Experimenting with Workshops

Tiered rows of green plastic chairs in a classroom

I’ve ended each of the past three semesters with several days of project presentations. Part of my reasoning was that I did not want to teach right down to the wire; I gave students their final project assignment and we spent some time talking about it, but then I wanted to give them time to work. Since the presentations were extensions of the project, I felt that devoting class to student presentations would help achieve this goal.


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All materials posted to this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. We invite you to use and remix these materials, but please give credit where credit is due. In addition, we encourage you to comment on your experiments with and adaptations of these plans so that others may benefit from your experiences.


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