“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homework Paranoia Induction Device

So you have 80 students and you want them to do the reading. But if you set homework for each class, you have 240 short paragraphs to grade per week. What do you do?

Look no further, tired and desperate teachers, fear not. For you shall now share in the secret of my homework paranoia machine, based on Hegel's insight about the French Revolution: the age of absolute freedom is also the age of absolute terror. Tried and tested for eight glorious years.

You randomly choose two or three students to email you their homework each class. You grade them. This is their written homework grade.

But that's not all--this is where the paranoia really kicks in.

In class you randomly choose two other people to read their homework. You grade them. This is their spoken homework grade.

So you sample each student twice, randomly. The axe can fall at any moment. They do the reading.

Then you have an extra credit option: the more homework they hand in, and the closer to its actual due date, the higher the extra credit grade.

This method accomplishes so many things:
Students do the reading.
Students are ready to talk in class.
You can discuss responses to the reading with some focus.
You are not buried under small paragraphs yet you have a sense of how everyone thinks, in a huge class.

Students are free not to do any work, too--just as the French were equally susceptible to decapitation at any moment.


Chris said...

Hey Tim, need some clarification. Do they hand in written homework (a paragraph?) on paper? Does this mean they bring it to class? And they read aloud in class? The second seems like it would take up a bit of time. I'm also confused by the extra credit bit, do you have them hand it in anyway?

What I've used to decent effect is to have them all respond with a paragraph to the class listserve, and the I selectively reply to a sentence here or there on some of their emails, but they never know quite how many I read. Similar principle, but can get unwieldy with large classes.

But I think what you're suggesting can be powerful, I want to get the details. These questions are, of course, THE problems for figuring out how to make students do work without debilitating your own ability to do the same.

- Chris (networkologies)

Timothy Morton said...

Will do--tiny bit busy but will respond. Yeah--they email it before class on request or read it out in class on request. Then they submit the rest for extra credit, in brief.