Get Students to Do Field Reports

By David LandesAmerican University in Dubai

Every week my students must post to our course discussion board a field report: 1-2 paragraphs articulating how a course concept of their choosing applies to something in their life.  They report on what they learned, its meaning, and the ideas it sparked.

Doing a field report every week gets students used to seeing course material in their world and how it affects their life. The habit makes them look for connections, rather than having me tell them. Field reports also give me a weekly stream of input on how the students are engaging the material, and it gives me ideas on how to adapt my curriculum to the various ways students absorb our class sessions.

We make field reports visible to other students but not to the wider public. Having students write semi-publically has helped improve their writing. Their reports tend to be more sincere, funny, and clear-voiced than I see in any other student writing.  I suspect this improvement comes from the combination of freedom in expressing their discoveries, and the the subtle demands of a peer audience.

David B. Landes is assistant professor of oral rhetoric at the American University in Dubai. He helped make the Argument Lab while teaching the applied humanities at MIT and Stanford. His extensive background as a jazz drummer and project consultant give his engaging style a multi-flavored freshness. His Ph.D. dissertation, earned at the University of Pittsburgh, is A Theory Of Attention for Communication.

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