This last semester I taught (for the third time) “BA201 Business Thought & Action”, an introduction to business class for sophomore business majors (52 in my class this year). The point of this class is to give students an overview of business as a whole, to give insight into the kinds of problems that business leaders think about. Students read two cases each week, and we discuss them in the weekly 3-hour class. (It wasn’t as painful as either I or my students thought it would be — time actually flies by!)
Given my natural predilections and my undergrad liberal arts education, I require that the students write and speak a lot. Twenty percent of their grade comes from in-class participation, and the rest comes from a variety of writing assignments (everything described in approximate terms of single-spaced number of pages):
- A personal introductory essay (1pg)
- 3 first-person analytical blog entries (1pg)
- 6 blog comments
- 2 third-person analytical writing assignments (2pg)
- 1 major third-person analytical writing assignment (3-4pg)
- 1 first-person summary introspective essay (1-3pgs)
- 1 final exam (2-4pg analytical case write-up)
And, yes, I am crazy enough to grade all of that myself. Yes, I need help (mental and with grading).
Before this year participation counted for 30% of the student’s grade, but they really didn’t like that. They felt the number was pulled out of thin air. Certainly, it feels more nebulous than their writing grades. (More on this at a later time.) In any case, I added the blogging portion of the grade for the first time this year and reduced the portion of their grade that was based on their participation.
To get to the conclusion, I was overwhelmed with the students’ performance! Take a look for yourself here. Students did a simply amazing job at this task. I read every assignment and learned a lot during the semester. Here’s what their assignment was:
Write one blog entry every month. I assign each person to a specific day. Write your essay about something in the news during the last 1-2 days. For your first blog entry, you simply can write about anything news worthy. Your task is to briefly summarize the news item, provide some context (any other recent and related news), then write your personal reaction to the event (the more clear and controversial, the better), and ask for reactions. For the second and third blog entries, I expect that you will do the above but also apply concepts from class in your analysis. Twice each month, I expect you to write a coherent and thoughtful comment in reply to different posts.
Well, as I said, the students did great. Seriously, just look at this post as well as the follow-up comments. I could have pointed out any of several dozen different posts (and nearly did), but this one serves my purposes. Recent news item? Check. Draws on multiple concepts from class? Check. Clearly states point of view? Check? And did he bring a fresh viewpoint as well that was worth reading? Absolutely.
What did the students get out of this activity? Well, as you might guess, they saw that the concepts that we used in class are directly applicable to their daily lives and to the business world that they are entering. Which increased their engagement with the class and the material. Which makes me a happy guy, because I think the stuff that I am teaching is actually quite valuable for them. It was a good deal all-around.
Any reaction to this? Have you had a similar experience? Any tweaks (large or small) that you can recommend? Or any questions about the process I used? I look forward to hearing from you (former students included!).