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This is part 1 of 3 of a series on how Tyson Seburn and I collaborate on an assignment we teach in our courses: Critical Reading and Writing and Themes of World History. One of my favourite parts of my job in the International Foundation Program (IFP) is that it requires a lot of collaboration and team work. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, the IFP is a program for international students who meet the admissions criteria at the University of Toronto except for their language test requirements. IFP students are usually just below the minimum test scores required by the university and in order to bridge that gap, they can apply to the IFP where we follow a content-based language acquisition model. They receive a conditional offer of admission and as long as they pass all the courses in our program, they continue into first year. In the IFP, the students take one content course – mine, a world history survey course – and three other core courses that focus on the skills required for success in my course and at U of T. This means that I am constantly in conversation with the instructor of the courses about curricula and assignments. Tyson Seburn not only coordinates the program but is also the lead instructor of the course Critical Reading and Writing and he is blogging about our collaboration in http://fourc.ca/collaborate1.

One of the issues first-year students often struggle with is the application of lecture content in class discussions or exam essays. In addition, my own students, being ELL (English language learners), also struggle with listening comprehension in lectures. Back in 2008 or 2009, I learned of a lecture note-taking assignments using wikis from Brian Croxall on twitter (@briancroxall). He had adapted the assignment from Jason B. Jones (@jbj), who wrote a series of posts about using wikis in the classroom. The basic idea of the assignment is that students collaborate in creating a summary of the lecture and do a series of tasks with lecture content. I had used the assignment in a third-year class a few years ago to much success and students in that class felt it would have been useful to have done it in first year.

In my Lecture Notes Assignment, students sign up to cover one of the lecture topics for the semester. In groups of 3-4, they take notes in lecture, read the assigned reading for tutorial discussion, and then, in a Google Doc, write a 250 word summary of the lecture, highlighting the main points. In that same Google Doc, individually, each member of the group come up with at least two keywords from the lecture and provide a definition and an explanation of its significance, select one passage from the reading and explain how it connects to the lecture, find/create an image and connect it to the lecture. Full description ->   IFP100Y – Lecture Notes Response Assignment.

Each step of the assignment connects to a task students had to do in their CRW class earlier and this is specifically mentioned in the assignment instructions. The assignment forced students to consciously focus on using lecture content in creative ways, which was challenging for most. Collaborating with Tyson to figure out the tasks we would ask students to perform and how, helped me clarify my own objectives with this assignment. In the next post, I’ll discuss in more detail how Tyson and I worked together in designing this assignment and some of the tech issues we had to figure out with working with Google Docs.