This line graph from a student’s final exam shows the progression of forum posts that the student submitted during the term. His goal was to demonstrate his steady progress toward the required number of posts through the entire course.
Just a glance at the graph tells me that the student fulfilled that part of the participation assignment for the course. Naturally, I still spot check the forums, and I keep an eye on students’ forum posts during the term. I ask students, however, to do the work of examining their forum participation and assessing how well they have done by writing a completion report for their final exam. Here’s how I frame the assignment:
You will review your work in the course and write a completion report that outlines what you have learned and done during the term. In particular, you will review your posts on the Forums and point out some of your best work. In addition to grading your report, I’ll use the information you present to help determine your participation grade for the course. In the workplace, you could think of this report as a self-evaluation for a performance review.
The activity is similar to the idea of writing a cover letter to highlight the contents of a portfolio or asking students to highlight their best journal entries for assessment. Since I am teaching professional writing students, though, I frame the activity as similar to workplace documents they will ultimately write.
I love these finals because students share their best work, often demonstrating their achievement with post excerpts and screenshots, in addition to graphs like the one above. Further, students frequently comment on ways that their writing has changed during the term, mentioning that if they had not gone back to examine their posts, they would never have noticed.
I feel certain that writers know their work far better than I do, and at the end of the term, they are easily able to pick out their best work. Even better for me, the assignment puts the onus on the student. I don’t have to search their posts for the golden gems. They unearth them for me and then tell me why those gems are valuable. I save time, and students gain a better understanding of their learning—this is one assignment that is a definite winner for me!