Final report on group research assignment.
It seems to have gone pretty well. Of the 22 students who finished the class 14 did the survey about it (anonymous, but they got points for it) All of them claimed to have liked the assignment, and learned something from it, and, most importantly, to have learned things from other students presenting their research and from the group part of it.
This is the third time I have done this.
Abortive Revolution (Modern China)
Taisho project (Modern Japan)
Huainanzi (Early China)
The point of these assignments is for students to read some stuff, discuss it in their groups, present on it, and then (individually) write something based on their own reading and what their fellow students have presented.
I think there are a couple things to change in the future. There are two parts of the process that need fixed. Right now it goes
-Students pick a group of 1-3 people, and choose a set of readings.
-Students read their individual reading, write an analysis of it, and then discuss it with their group.
-The group writes a paper synthesizing the three readings, and does a presentation to the class on them
-I think I will get rid of the group paper. It is sort of the same thing as the presentation, and getting them to synthesize it once (for the presentation) is enough. It tends to be hard enough to push them towards synthesis of the three readings and why they matter, rather than just pasting the three reading papers together. Students tend to draw more from the presentations than from the group paper anyway.
-Students write an essay based on their own readings and the presentations of the other groups.
This is probably the biggest weakness. I try to write broad “questions” as topics for their essay, and then encourage them to narrow it down a bit. This is something that is difficult to do at the best of times. Maybe add a meeting with me to help with the question framing?
The other issue, of course, is how to do this for my other classes. The Republican period in Modern China, Taisho in Modern Japan and Huainanzi for Early China all fit nicely in the early/middle part of the class and lend themselves to questions about how this period (or at least some of the things going on it it). How to do this for my other two upper levels, Early Modern Japan and Late Imperial China? Those are both classes that focus more on social and cultural history, and don’t really have a clear middle bit that would work for this.
Maybe for Japan something like “Representation and reality” focusing on elites and the reading public tried to understand and represent the society around them? For China maybe something on the shi as doctors to society? In other words, rather than something chronologically central, maybe more socially central?