2.1 Students Documenting Histories- by Candida Rifkind

Since I was the moderator I may be biased, but this was an inspiring session. All three presenters (Heidi Bollinger, Sam Meekings, and Clark Pomerleau) told us about their thoughtful, carefully developed assignments for students to produce forms of life writing in their courses. Heidi has a graphic memoir + artist’s statement assignment, Sam has a prose memoir assignment around the “split self”, and Clark uses a life writing assignment to engage his students with social history. I always find assessment of life writing assignments difficult, so was really interested to hear how much these instructors engage students in that process. I love the idea of asking students what should be included on the assessment rubric (Bollinger), assigning students into peer groups of 3 to critique and develop their writing over the term (Pomerleau), and asking students to do a self-assessment using the same rubric as the instructor (Meekings).  I think there can be a lot of anxiety over grades for non-traditional assignments, and they often jar with the established assessment mechanisms of universities, so making the very process of assessment more collaborative with students is a genius idea that also decenters the professor as arbitrator and ultimate authority.

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