faculty: Elena Kramer (OEB), Missy Holbrook (OEB)

fellow: Morgan furze

Professors Elena Kramer and Missy Holbrook, in collaboration with Teaching Fellow Morgan Furze, re-designed the final assignment for her course OEB 52 The Biology of Plants to craft a creative assignment that maximized student understanding of a complex concept: the rise of the sporophyte in the evolutionary history of plants. 

A concern of both students as well as professors Kramer and Holbrook was the open-ended nature of the assignment; in the past, students had been encouraged to depict the rise of the sporophyte creatively, but students felt as though the assignment lacked guidelines, and professors felt as though some of the resulting projects lacked focus. In conjunction with the Bok Center, Professor Kramer and TF Morgan re-wrote the assignment to explicitly state the following elements: 1) The course content to be addressed in the project, 2) The learning goals of the assignment, and 3) How the creative nature of the project, regardless of medium, is intended to achieve these goals. Professor Kramer and Morgan also built-in two additional elements to the course: Morgan hosted several “hackathons” for students, especially those using video equipment, to aid with technical problems that might arise as students experimented with producing academic work in unfamiliar mediums, and, at the end of the project, students were required to come to the Bok Center to record their “artist statements.” In these statements, students were asked to state why they chose the medium that they did, and the rationale behind their major artistic choices.

The updated assignment addressed concerns of both parties: Professors Holbrook and Kramer noted that projects were of higher quality and more careful consideration than in years past, while students took greater ownership over course material by intentionally translating the content into the medium of their choice. The success of the assignment was also evidenced by students’ investment in their classmates’ projects which were displayed in a “plant festival” during the final class session. 


Media, skills, and literacies: speaking, teaching

Deliverables and outcomes: video shoots of the "artist statement" for final project, greater student investment in course community