Renewable and Disposable Assignments in Literature Courses
Many of us structure syllabi according to a familiar read-discuss-write a paper rhythm, a sequence that allows students to further explore ideas independently and in depth. But as natural and inevitable as this process seems, what really comes of the hours we all invest in the writing and grading of literary analysis papers? Open pedagogy advocate David Wiley coined the term "disposable assignments" to describe the assignments that "add no value to the world" -- and even, given the resources invested in a product that will end up in the recycling bin, "actually suck value out of the world." How then can we develop assignments that serve the goals of the conventional essay – developing language and analytical skills, fostering engagement with the course – while actually contributing to public knowledge? Creating renewable assignments, students work in multiple modes to develop materials for future learners; they may rewrite or supplement existing texts, curate collections, or develop video tutorials for other students. They may use classroom knowledge for real-world interventions. Renewable assignments have the potential to transform the study of literature and the relevance of the humanities. In our roundtable, we will both rethink our pedagogical models and share concrete strategies, distributing a link to the renewable assignments used by panelists to be exchanged among colleagues for brainstorming and feedback.