Assignments: Bane of Student Teachers and Professors

checkmark imagesI (Clare) was in my department yesterday and ran into a number of colleagues. Most were bemoaning their heavy marking load. This is the end of the semester and most seemed snowed under with the grading papers. A few weeks ago I observed a number of student teachers submitting their assignments. They too looked tired and were complaining about their assignments and workload. Yes assignments are work. Yes as instructors we need to grade student work. But there is something wrong with this picture. Many of the student teachers do not find their assignments useful (as a few commented – “they are just make- work projects”) and faculty spend huge amounts of time marking projects their student teachers found wanting. We definitely need to have assignments but I think it is time to discuss what are useful assignments for student teachers. The corollary issue is how can marking assignment be useful for faculty?
A number of years ago when I was Director of the Elementary Preservice program at OISE we created a survey about assignments which we distributed to around 600 student teachers. The results were surprising: they did not like having to self-assess, they disliked group projects, and they would rather have fewer, more in-depth assignments, than many little ones. (Most criticized were submitting long lesson plans with reflections. Many admitted they simply made up the reflections.) What was not surprising is they valued assignments where they had choice in both the topic and the format. If we (faculty and student teachers) are going to spend significant time on assignments then let’s use our time more fruitfully and productively. We cannot do away with assignments but I think we can reconceptualize them to be more useful for everyone involved.

1 thought on “Assignments: Bane of Student Teachers and Professors

  1. Assignments: Bane of Student Teachers and Professors | Literacy
    Teaching and Teacher Education
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