I admit it. Sometimes, I am a bad person.
Remember those three young men who cheated on their first homework assignment? I promised them after our little episode that the next two assignments (and there are only a total of 3 in the course) would be designed to promote individual work and it would be difficult to cheat.
It took me a couple of weeks, but I came up with an assignment.
Usually, first year language classes involve assignments with lots of fill in the blank, short answer and some multiple choice.
But not this time.
This time, they got a "critical thinking assignment": Construct a portfolio on your experiences with the Spanish language and culture outside this classroom. Include written journal entries that show a critical reflection of how your experiences of this class have impacted your life. Show me how you have grown as a human being through taking this course.
I gave them a full list of instructions, but that is the basic gist of the project.
It is true that this assignment does not review basic language skills. They have a practice workbook for that, so they have lots of chances to do "drills", so to speak.
In fact, I told them, "This assignment can be done in English. Part of the point of taking a Humanities course is to develop your critical thinking skills. Activities that focus on filling in the blank don't do that. The purpose of this assignment is to show me you can think and express yourself eloquently. It is an individual assignment. Originality and creativity count. If you expect an A, you need to show me that you have paid attention to detail, thought it through in depth and dedicated yourself to the task of creating an original project. The results should speak for themselves."
I figured words like "creativity", "critical thinking skills" and "reflective journal writing" would make a few jaws drop. And it did. There are numerous students from other faculties in the course who are taking this as an option (including the 3 who cheated). Most of them will be unaccustomed to doing projects where they are marked on their critical thinking skills. But developing such skills is, after all, part of a complete university undergraduate experience.
They even have to pass in a first draft (part one) and then a final version (part two). Each part is worth marks. This will help ensure that they don't just slap something together at the very last minute.
As we say in Spanish, "No hay nada mas dulce que la venganza"... Revenge is sweet.