Meta 3

We ran into administrative calendar problems for this assignment. We completed the topic on Friday; Monday we planned to review for the first exam; and the exam itself was scheduled for Wednesday. As a consequence, I told the students that to get full benefit from the assignment they would need to turn it in by Monday (instead of giving them a week), though if they wanted to turn it in later, I would give them credit.

Eighteen students completed this assignment. That’s about a third of the class, and one fewer than for Meta 1. I am not surprised to receive fewer submissions than Meta 2 due to the compressed schedule. I’m not going to worry about this as deviating from the trend. On the other hand, one student submitted Meta 3 when she hadn’t done the first two, so that’s a plus.

The topic involved alternative ways to organize an economy to address the economic problem, i.e. traditional, command, and market economies. I began discussion of Meta 3 by asking if this material was primarily theoretical, institutional, or conceptual. The answer was institutional, so I suggested we organize our answers around that focus. We quickly concluded that the topic didn’t introduce any major new theories, though it did draw on ones we had learned about earlier in the semester. What was not theories or institutions, we classified as concepts.

The students did a good job of identifying all the major items, though in their submissions, they didn’t always categorize them correctly in terms of the framework of concepts, facts/findings, and theories.

A couple of students made no attempt to justify their choices of why an item was major or why they included it in which category. Could this be due to the time constraint? Clearly students need more practice with this metacognition.

On the other hand, six students did a really fine job of explaining and justifying their choices, which was the most I’ve had on one meta so far.

Three students didn’t follow the framework at all–they simply created an outline of the material. All three outlines were quite well done, but they weren’t following the rules. Was this done to better met their needs, or because they found it difficult to follow the rules, perhaps because of the time constraint? I’ll ask them.

As I reviewed the students’ submissions I observed that the comments I write on the metas seem qualitatively different than those on other papers I grade. Perhaps the key word is grade. On papers that I’m grading, I think at some level I write comments mostly to justify the grade I award. By contrast, I’m not grading the metas per se. Rather, I feel like I’m holding a conversation with the students, asking questions to draw out what they are doing and pushing them in the direction I think need to go. Interesting.

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2 Responses to Meta 3

  1. Martha says:


    Having recognized that there is a difference in how you comment on the meta assignments, will you now change the way you comment on graded assignments? Do you feel like this new awareness will alter your approach to commenting in general?


  2. Steve says:

    Actually, my immediate reaction was to think: I should be assigning fewer “graded” papers and more formative papers. Why? Because it seems a lot more interesting to me to converse with students at a higher level than just comment on the same content. Also, because maybe if this whole approach works, it will get students to be more intentional about their learning, which I think/hope will ultimately be of more benefit.

    Maybe this is a cop-out, but it’s hard to do what you’re suggesting on ordinary assignments. I’ve tried and gotten tired of it. It’s hard to be fresh and cheerful when the 50th student says the same thing, and it’s hard to be positive when the 51st makes the same mistake. But maybe I can get where you’re pointing from the angle I’m thinking of. Thanks for the conscience, Jimminy Cricket! I’ve clearly got to think about this more deeply.

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