The new academic year has arrived (or soon will, for those who start after Labor Day). Though there may be a certain sadness to the end of summer, a new academic year can also bring the excitement of a fresh start. It’s a time for meeting new people and trying new things, for faculty no less than for students.
Some new things may be major: a new course, or perhaps a new project. In my case, the new is something small. I’ve changed the first essay assignment in my writing course. For several years, I’ve asked students to begin the semester by writing a brief essay identifying an important political issue, explaining why they think it’s important, and recommending an approach to the issue or problem.
It’s not that the assignment didn’t work; students produced reasonably good essays. Still, I thought a different assignment might help students write more focused, passionate essays. So this semester, I’m asking them to write a “This I Believe” essay, following these guidelines.1
That may seem odd for a Political Science class, but given the ways in which our deepest beliefs can influence our attitudes toward politics, I anticipate that the assignment will result in some interesting reading and discussion.
Are you trying anything new in your classes this semester? Let us know in the comments.
- I borrowed this idea from Stephanie Anne Salome, who wrote about using such an assignment with her math students in her contribution to Eifler, Karen E., and Thomas M. Landy, eds. 2014. Becoming Beholders: Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and Actions in College Classrooms. Collegeville, Minnesota: Michael Glazier.?
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