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Stan @ Paper Shredding

Looking back, this would have been hard. Now we know about office politics, double speak and yes men. Consider taking into account regular venting and social time. People want to and are going to talk about their lives, acknowledge these times and people feel like they are a part of something and will feel invested.


As a new dad myself, I don't suppose I can email the student who wrote about family? Just kidding. This is a really great idea for a final. Much better than simple multiple choice

Paul Maloney

When I read this post, I had two emotional reactions. 1. In the days when I was a student who worried about grades, hearing this announcement at the beginning of the term would have scared the sh!@ out of me. What a cool innovation from a professor looking to promote meaning over extrinsic nonsense. 2. This guy is another professor asking students to express 'shoulds' and 'gonnas' that almost invariably will amount to nothing. Students will get an A if they're clever, creative, and/or bold, but one still would win a lot of money betting against the A's.

So my point is this, Bob. I accept your offer, as my improv colleagues would say. Definitely don't listen to your self-doubt and do keep announcing this question at the beginning of the semester. My only humble suggestion is that you ask people to answer the question in the past tense. Start it with "how did you..." Make them do something. You may need to replace the word 'organizational' with something smaller and more realistic for a 5-month time frame. And you may need to convince the Stanford bureaucrats to let you submit or revise grades well after the official term ending. But grading is an orthodoxy waiting to be challenged. I also expect the whole notion of descending letters to denote worth will be an industrial artifact for the students who rise to your challenge and you could blaze the trail by doing away with the grading nonsense. And don't even get me started on the fact that you still ask your students to sit down for a specific, short, time period to demonstrate what they've learned with written ideas...


A caution about opening up the options for response - at least as I've discovered. It's necessary to maintain the same high standards for presentation. For example, I'm at U of Idaho and I expect my grad students to write as professionals. I assume the same is true at Stanford. When I allow response in, eg, video, the presentation is often of a lower quality - the producer hasn't been creating video since first grade. That's hard to handle so be ready. I've done it for a few years and I still get caught off guard. Good luck!

Joanne Munroe

Exactly! My sort of capstone project! Inspirational.

Judy Arzt

Suggestion: yes, encourage multimedia responses instead of the old-standby academic paper written in academic discourse.


Go for it. I was a TA for a professor who assigned a paper to describe the sensory system of an animal and how it would perceive the world as a result. It had to be a sensory system that humans don't have (or at least don't use).

One student asked the prof if he could do it as a comic book instead of a traditional paper. I was told to grade it by the same criteria (clarity, completeness, and creativity) as the others.

It was one of the best, and a delight to read. Also the only one that I still remember.

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