Creativity in the Composition Classroom

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Final UnEssay Project

Overview: Due to the number of BIOL 1107 students I teach each semester, I have to use a lot of standard activities and assessments which include mostly multiple-choice questions for homework and testing situations. However, these don’t allow you to show your creativity in interacting with the material. I’ve been trying to find a way that lets you engage with the material using a very important aspect of science: imagination! The models, ideas, and processes we study this semester, first had to be imagined before they could be tested. Creativity and imagination are extremely important aspects of science. Therefore, in addition to these traditional assessments, there will be a final project for this class. This allows you to engage with the material in whatever way best suits you.

Why: Students have a variety of reasons for taking BIOL 1107. “It’s required” and “I enjoy biology” are very common ones, but there are 100’s of other reasons for taking this course. BIOL 1107 is a survey course on cellular and molecular biology. This means that we learn about a lot of topics in these fields of biology to prepare you for a variety of future coursework and careers, but do not have the time to go in-depth about any particular topic in the course. You may be interested in the genetic basis for breast cancer, the cellular mechanism that allows cacti to survive in very arid environments, how high-performance athletes switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism during exercise, how chromosome crossing-over happens at the molecular level, etc.

What: The Final UnEssay Project is your chance to combine your interests, personal reasons for learning cellular and molecular biology, and creativity to go more in-depth about a specific topic. The Final UnEssay Project can be done on any topic in cellular and molecular biology. It can be done using any medium (writing, art, music, pictures, etc.). It can be done individually or as a group project. It’s called an UnEssay because it doesn’t confine you to a research paper with specific conditions and formatting requirements (although you can certainly write a research paper), but instead allows you the creativity to explore a topic of interest in a way that most resonates with you.

How: Choose any topic you want providing you can associate your topic with at least one subject of this course. You can take any presentation approach to the UnEssay. You can use as few or as many sources as you want. Your presentation method should complement the topic chosen. A few presentation ideas: research paper, blog, website, music video, cartoon, PPT presentation, drawing, sculpture, photo-essay, learning activity, game, lesson plan, book review, etc. The only requirement is that your UnEssay is compellingeffective, and accurate.

Timeline: The parts of the project are due to the following Sundays by 11:59 pm:

January 30th Topic and Format

March 13th Substantial Work In Progress

April 17th Final UnEssay Project

 

 

Topic and Format (due January 30th):

Submit a short Topic and Format statement that explains (a)your topic, (b)the format in which you plan to present it, (c)what you plan to do and when, and (d)why you want to do this project. IF working in a group, everyone should submit their own Topic and Format statement that reflects their personal views on the project lists the group members, and explains what each person is planning on contributing to the project. This statement should be 300 – 400 words written in Word and submitted by 11:59 pm January 30th to the Topic and Format dropbox.

Substantial Work in Progress (March 13th):

Submit a short Work in Progress statement that (a)explains what you have accomplished, (b)what you need to do to finish, and (c)something that shows your progress (e.g. a picture of the artwork, draft/outline/annotated bibliography for written pieces, etc.) If working in a group, everyone should submit their own Work in Progress statement that reflects their personal views on the project, lists the group members, and explains what they have contributed to the project. This statement should be 200 – 300 words, submitted using Word by 11:59 pm March 13th to the Work in Progress dropbox.

Final UnEssay Project Submission (due April 17th):

When you submit your project include a short Explanatory statement that explains (a)what you did, (b)why you did it, and (c)how you went about producing the UnEssay. If you chose to do a standard essay/paper this can be your place to be more open about the process you used to create the piece. The Explanatory statement should be 400 – 500 words, turned into the final UnEssay Dropbox using Word. If working in a group, everyone should submit their own Explanatory statement that reflects their personal views on the project. The process of submission of your Final UnEssay Project will be related to the best way to get the project to Dr. DP (e.g. Folio dropbox, hand-in, etc.).

 

Grading Rubric: If UnEssays can be about anything and there are no restrictions on format and presentation, how are they graded? The main criterion is how well it all fits together; how compellingeffective, and accurate your work is.

An UnEssay is compelling when it shows some combination of the following:

· it is as interesting as its topic and approach allows

· it is as complete as its topic and approach allows (it doesn’t leave the audience thinking that important points are being skipped over or ignored)

An UnEssay is effective when it shows some combination of these attributes:

· it is readable/watchable/listenable (i.e. the production values are appropriately high and the audience is not distracted by avoidable lapses in presentation)

· it is appropriate (i.e. it uses a format and medium that suits its topic and approach)

· it is attractive (i.e. it is presented in a way that leads the audience to trust the author and his or her arguments, examples, and conclusions).

An UnEssay is accurate when it shows some combination of the following:

· it is truthful (any questions, evidence, conclusions, or arguments you raise are honestly and accurately presented)

· it contains accurate scientific information

Ideas contributed from Mike Kessel, Daniel O’Donnell, Emily Clark, and Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan, P. (2015). The UnEssay: Making Room for Creativity in the Composition Classroom. College Composition and Communication, 67(1): 6 – 33.

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