Multigenre Research Project

Essay time (Postmodern Feminism): My Desk

My juniors don’t know it (unless they read this blog, in which case, hi students! Surprise!), but they are going to begin a multigenre research project in a couple of weeks.

I first learned about multigenre research papers from Buffy Hamilton—I had heard of multigenre research papers before I attended Buffy’s session at the annual GCTE conference, but I hadn’t learned about them. In that session, she recommended Tom Romano’s book Blending Genre, Altering Style, which is still the gold standard for multigenre research writing. I walked out of the session very excited to try this kind of writing with my students, but I needed some time to figure out how to do it and what I wanted it to look like.

Buffy exemplifies what is best about Web 2.0 in her willingness not only to share her presentations, but also her materials with teachers who might not have been fortunate enough to attend her presentation (and, of course, those who were). Here is a link to her wiki page with her presentation and materials. I adapted the materials, and in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license under which Buffy shared her materials, you can download mine under the same license. Note: These files are PDF’s. If you just want to print, click the link and click Print. If you want to save the files, right click and save the link (save link as, save target as). You should be able to download them that way. If not, let me know.

The twist on the assignment for me, and the main way I changed Buffy’s materials, is that I want my students to share their projects using a Google Site. Our school has Google Apps, and I think using Google Sites will be a good way for students to learn a little bit about online publishing but still maintain control over who sees their work—Google Sites can be shared only with others on the network.

You can create multigenre research projects on anything, but I want my students to research a British author. Because I think a model is essential in undertaking an assignment like this one, I created a model for the assignment. Here is my Jane Austen multigenre research project. My angle is that in the last fifteen years or so, we’ve seen Jane Austen’s impact on pop culture grow, well, I don’t want to say exponentially because it might not be quite that profound, but you get the idea. Math folks? Exponentially or not? Anyway, I attribute a lot of this growth to the 1996 BBC film of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth (congratulations, Colin Firth!) and Jennifer Ehle.

Feel free to download and adapt the materials I shared, though original portions of the Jane Austen project are copyrighted by me (portions of the work owned by others are cited on the Works Cited page). You can share the project with your students, but please do not duplicate it on your own website.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tim Riley 澳大利亚

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I am often the last person to hear about the cool tools, but I don’t think I’ve seen Zotero mentioned in any other education blogs.

Zotero is a Firefox extension that helps “you collect, manage, and cite your research sources” within your browser.  Screencast tutorials at the Zotero site help you visualize what that means for your research.  I think students could potentially save a lot of time with Zotero.  It would be great for research papers.  I don’t know if I will need to write any scholarly papers for my ITMA program, but if so, I can see this extension can potentially save me a lot of time.

Zotero Screenshot

Zotero Screenshot

Zotero works for Firefox 2.0 or 3.0, Netscape Navigator 9.0, or Flock 0.9.1 for Windows, Mac, or Linux.  It is free and open source, and lots of good plugins can extend its capabilities with other software, such as Open Office, Microsoft Office, and WordPress.

My worry in using it with my own students is that it would be a learning curve for them.  As I have stated before elsewhere, it has not been my experience that students today are as tech savvy as we give them credit for, and many of them are not patient with tech tools either.

Everything I learned about technology, I learned because I sat down and played with it until I figured out how it worked, but my students do not always approach learning how to use new tools the same way.  I do have a few students I might recommend it to.

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Week in Reflection: March 24-28, 2008

The end of this week leaves me feeling somewhat exhausted. I was rear-ended last weekend, and I have been dealing with the problems that entails — reporting the accident, waiting for the police report so I can file a claim with the other guy’s insurance, getting an estimate for damage (nearly $1300), and worrying about the fact that no one knows I’m signaling with my left turn signal, thereby making changing lanes and turning left more awkward and stressful.

My tenth grade students handed in the final draft of their research papers. I know it felt strange to be handing that assignment in after working on it for so long. I can tell that my students learned a great deal from the process.

My freshman are learning all about phrases and working on The Catcher in the Rye. I am not 100% satisfied with how phrases are going because my students come from such disparate backgrounds, depending upon the teachers they have had before. Students who ordinarily catch on quickly and do well on other aspects of my class are feeling awkward about their knowledge and understanding through no fault of their own. I agreed to meet them for some review at lunch some day next week, so I hope that will help.

My seniors are engaged in an assignment I called “Flat World Willy.” After reading Death of a Salesman, students looked at the play’s continuing relevance to our own society through an examination of outsourcing and globalization. They read an excerpt from The World is Flat (the chapter entitled “The Untouchables”), viewed Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s “Did You Know?” (which they really enjoyed), viewed part of an episode of The Simpsons called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore” (which examines outsourcing in a humorous way), and viewed a Discovery Times special “The Other Side of Outsourcing” (Thomas Friedman). They are creating handbooks for either high school graduates or college graduates that will help the grads navigate the job pool in the age of globalization and outsourcing, ensuring that a) the grads will always have a job, and b) the grads won’t end up like Willy Loman. I think they are having fun with it, and what I have seen so far of their planning looks really good.

I’m so tired. Lots of stuff going on right now, and it’s sapping my energy. This is the time of year when it’s easy for teachers to get burned out. The first rule is to take care of yourself. You can’t be an effective teacher if you don’t.

Update, 3:41 P.M.: I keep forgetting to mention my 9th graders’ Romeo and Juliet diaries have been appearing bit by bit at the Room 303 Blog. It helps to scroll down because the entries are posted chronologically.

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The Homework on Homework: Part One

As I promised earlier, I am reading the studies cited by Robert Marzano Classroom Instruction that Works. The first study I picked up is “The Effects of Homework on Learning: A Quantitative Synthesis” from Journal of Educational Research, November/December 1984 (full citation at end of this post).

Alfie Kohn’s claim in his rebuttal of my post at The Faculty Room was that none of the studies cited by Marzano, et. al. in the chapter “Homework and Practice” showed that “homework was beneficial for students.” Kohn accuses Marzano of misrepresenting the research on homework.

The focus of the Paschal, Weinstein, Walberg, 1984, which is not one of the five studies Kohn mentions in his criticism of Marzano, is a synthesis of “empirical studies of homework and of various homework strategies on the academic achievement and attitude of elementary and secondary students.” In the abstract of the study, Paschal, et. al. state: “About 85% of the effect sizes favored the homework groups. The mean effect size is .36 (probability less than .0001). Homework that was graded or contained teachers’ comments produced stronger effects (.80).”

As I said, this meta-analysis does not appear to be one of the five studies Kohn mentions in his post when questioning Marzano’s research, but it is in a chart on p. 61 of Marzano entitled “Research Results for Homework.” Perhaps it is not considered by Kohn because it is a meta-analysis or synthesis rather than original research itself. I do think it has interesting things to say about the effects of homework, however. Paschal, et. al. note that “[e]xtensive classroom research on ‘time on task’ and international comparisons of year-round time for study suggest that additional homework might promote U.S. students’ achievement.” However, the authors also note that writing on the subject of homework has largely characterized homework as “unwholesome, professionally unsupervised, or allow[ing] the children to practice mistakes.” Paschal, et. al. acknowledge that attitudes regarding homework seem to change depending upon a variety of factors.

Paschal, et. al. examined “15 studies that compared students with various qualities and amounts of assigned homework. These included the most frequent comparison, of students who were assigned and those who were not assigned homework.”

The authors conclude that “[t]he corpus of evidence shows a moderately large average effect size [0.80] of assigned homework that is commented upon or graded.” However, the authors also acknowledge that “much of the voluminous, 70-year-old literature on homework is opinionated and polemical, and surprisingly few methodologically adequate studies have been conducted.” I can attest to the veracity of the first part of that statement, given my own recent experience. Kohn was the only respondent to my original post who even brought up research.

Obviously, I want to read the five studies cited by Kohn and Marzano, as those studies seem to be at the heart of the contention between the two, but I felt this meta-analysis made it fairly clear that some homework was better than no homework. Marzano’s conversion table on p. 160 translates a 0.36 effect size to a percentile gain of 14. In other words, the average student who does homework (at least, according to my interpretation of the meta-analysis) will have score 14 percentage points higher on a standard bell curve measuring student achievement.  An average student who does homework that is graded and receives feedback on that homework will have a score over 28 percentage points higher on a standard bell curve measuring student achievement.  Sounds good to me.  I encourage you to read the study yourself and draw your own conclusions, too.  Feel free to leave them in the comments.  I will be reading other studies and sharing my conclusions here, so if you are interested in the great homework debate, check back.

Marzano, Robert J., Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2001.

Paschal, Rosanne A., Thomas Weinstein, and Herbert J. Walberg. “The Effects of Homework on Learning: A Quantitative Analysis.” Journal of Educational Research. 78.2 (1984): 97-104. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Weber School Library, Atlanta, GA. 7 March 2008. <>.

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