Creative Assignment Chaos?

Among the many things I learned at the Bok Center’s Fall Teaching Conference was this: TFs are anxious about creative assignments. During a panel sponsored by the Program in General Education, creative assignments came up again and again. How should they be evaluated? What should prompts look like? What campus resources can TFs rely on?

In response to this outcry, the Bok Center and the Program in General Education conducted a lunchtime workshop for TFs. Topics of discussion included how to evaluate creative and multimedia assignments, how to approach faculty whose assignment instructions leave standards and expectations unclear, and how to introduce creative and multimedia options into low-stakes assignments as well as midterm and final projects.

The general consensus was:

  1. Make expectations explicit. TFs and students alike should have a clear understanding of what the project will be expected to demonstrate. Along with a high-quality prompt, a clear evaluation rubric can help focus student work and preempt TF anxiety about grading. In particular, consider whether mastery of the medium is the point of the assignment. Often, it isn’t. (See the Pyramid Schemes Guide, linked below, for an example of a great rubric.)
  2. Show students examples of excellent work after which they can model their own projects.
  3. Assign projects using media that are appropriate to course content and skills. iMovie is only one option among many; comic strips, graffiti, and songs might more effectively facilitate and demonstrate student learning.
  4. Scaffold skills that go into creating a major creative or multimedia project. Students shouldn’t be working with a new medium for the first time when a large portion of their grade is on the line.

What experiences (positive and otherwise) have you had with creative or multimedia assignments? Let us know!

A plan is in the works for  the Bok Center, along with the Program in General Education and ATG, to offer a central website – like the Harvard Writing Project’s – that will include best practices, examples of student work, scholarship, and other resources. For now, here are some links that faculty, TFs, and students dealing with creative/multimedia assignments might find useful:

Harvard Writing Project

For comparing elements of creative assignments to those in traditional papers)

Harvard Shorts Competition

Student films from courses across the University. The competition judges quality of filmmaking, not fulfillment of assignment goals.

ATG’s Collection of Multimedia Projects

Many of these are iSite tools rather than student assignments, but they give some nice ideas about how creative/multimedia projects both large and small might work. ATG also shares iSites boxes across course websites with information about multimedia assignments, resources across campus for finding equipment.

Lamont Multimedia Lab

Tutorials, Copyright information, Physical Resource Locations.

Dr. Kitagawa’s History Lab

iMovie, Green Screen, Keynote, Garage Band tutorials customized to Prof. Kitagawa’s course (but useful more broadly). Sample student work!

Lynda.com

Online tutorials for programs and machines useful in creating multimedia. Log in from Lamont for free access.

Pyramid Schemes Guide to Creating iMovies

Produced by the Writing Project, this guide offers an excellent example of a rubric for evaluating any creative assignment, as well as tips on how to approach producing work in an unfamiliar medium.

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