Response papers

In the class I am teaching this summer, I assigned two sagas, Orkenyingja Saga and the Vinland Sagas (so well actually three sagas technically speaking...).  I also am having the students read the Skeleton in Armor by Longfellow, Lady from the Sea by Ibsen, Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world by Kurlansky, and Smilla's Sense of Snow by Hoeg. This is the first time I have taught a class with this particular North Atlantic focus, and only the second time I have taught a writing class focusing on writing research papers. The students are researching various aspects of the North Atlantic.

As with anybody's first time doing anything, my plans kind of keep evolving. So I had not quite made up my mind about assignments when the class started, except that there would be two research papers. Now I have added short response papers for each reading. I told the students they would not be graded, but they do count towards their final grade, which is perhaps a bit confusing. And as it turns out, I am grading them "ok" "good" "very good" and "great". I have not yet decided exactly how this translates into points for the final grade, or if it will.

So the response papers are a moving target for my students. Each time they write one, I up the ante of what they need to do for the next one. This is not really fair to do to them.* They ought to know, right from the beginning, what they need to do to pass the class. Instead, I keep adding new things onto their list.

I think this is because the same thing keeps happening to me with my dissertation.

*thank you to a colleague/friend who pointed this out to me, although I am not sure now what exactly I can do about it.....

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