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Types of Writing Assignments

Reflective essays, journals and field notes: 

These assignments typically require a student to think about and reflect on one’s beliefs, assumptions, experiences and various personal interactions associated with education. A student may be asked to write a “literacy narrative” or an autobiographical description of his/ her earliest memories of school and/ or what it felt like to learn to read or socialize with other children. A student may be asked to write a description of what he believes to be the “ideal” teacher, based on what he experienced as a young child, or to relate a specific anecdote that captures a crucial moment in the early years.

Journals are usually on-going during a course; students are asked to keep a dedicated notebook, file or blog that contains daily observations or notes about a particular topic or theme.

Field notes are notes written in the “field”: in other words, as an observer or student teacher, a student will be expected to keep notes that describe her observations about interactions with children and children’s interactions with each other; class dynamics, and diversity concerns as well as student progress may be noted during specific time duration. Long-term notes may form the basis for an extended essay or serve as a source for a longer assignment that calls for direct, experiential content.

Curriculum Designs and Lesson Plans:

Courses focused on teaching methods require the student to design individual lessons or units in particular content areas.  Perhaps an activity based on several children’s books to extract theme or language skills will be option.  Perhaps plant germination will be the focus of a science lesson. For special education, IEPs may be required for individual students. For any course, students may be expected to incorporate technology into the curriculum design.

Reviews of Instruction Materials:

In a review, the student is expected to assess the value of a set of instructional materials for the classroom. For example, the student may look at several textbooks and explain which would be most useful in a particular classroom setting, for a particular level.

Case Studies:

Many education courses require students to conduct and write case studies. These studies may involve observation and analysis of an individual student, a teacher, a method, or classroom interactions. The goal of a case study may be to determine how the process of teaching or learning takes place or how an event can illuminate something about learning or classroom dynamics.

Research papers:

Students may be expected to focus on broader educational issues or problems that require research and a synthesis of the readings. In other words, the student is expected to survey a body of materials then formulate his own ideas about the topic. In a course about the history of education, for example, a student may opt to research the development or evolution of literacy or the growth of literacy in a particular area of the country or among a particular ethnic group.  In a developmental psychology course, a student may study and report on how students in a given age group learn mathematics or music or science.

Self-evaluations:

As a future teacher, a student will be asked to evaluate her own teaching and learning.  The format of the self-evaluation will vary depending on whether or not the student is assessing her skills as teacher or as learner. Sample questions to consider include the following:

  • What were the strength and weaknesses of your lesson or unit?
  • How did your lesson further student learning?
  • What have you learned about yourself and your students from teaching this class?
  • How can you improve your teaching?

Portfolios:

As a prospective teacher, a student may be expected to assemble a teaching portfolio before graduation.  The purpose of the portfolio is to provide information about the student’s teaching experience and philosophy. The content may vary, but the common documents may include a statement of teaching philosophy, a statement of professional goals, a resume, evaluations from supervisory instructors and sample course materials. A portfolio will most likely be constructed as a print and an electronic document.