So far, my students have done preliminary research on topics they are interested in, and posted those writings on the site. They are under the mission for Relevant and Reliable Research. I have found in reading their work that the structure of that assignment was necessary, but limiting to their full potential in exploring their topic. Let me explain:
The students chose topics they were interested in, but knew little about. The research they did was primarily to inform them in answering their question. Their writing, as a result, was a conversational dialogue between themselves as writers and the research they found. The result was a "balanced" piece that was driven primarily by the research. In other words, it looked mostly like this:
- I found this article, and it says BLAH. This means BLAH and connects to BLAH.
- Another article says BLAH, which means BLAH and connects to BLAH.
And so on.
This structure was necessary because it allowed the students to collect a lot of information without having to select which is supporting or not supporting their ideas. Since their ideas were barely formed, they were able to gather ideas and resources that would help construct their own thinking on the topic.
The next step, then, is to have students realize the full potential of their voices in relation to their topics. This would mean writing on the same thing more than once, or more than twice. From this first assignment, a new mission might be:
- Reread your post and search for two things:
1. What new questions did you research help you to ask? How could your analysis be taken further?
2. What do you know now, or already believe/agree with? This might be something you already believed to be true, or something your research has presently informed. It might be something you strongly agreed with or disagreed with in your last findings.
From here, students might be able to reverse the relationship that their first writing about the topic created (the research drives, the student's voice explains it) to create a situation where the student's voice and opinion are strengthened from the get-go, and the research supports and informs their ideas (instead of the other way around). The entire structure of a new post would be different, since it would follow the flow of the student's ideas, instead of following a list of research items that were found.
I wrote this quickly. Apologies for any nonsensical items.