Read in regular English (sqrt(E)) right here.
Papers. Essays. Research Papers. Compositions. These act as an important part of any school education, but they lack something. Students almost unanimously hate essays, find them hard to work on and finish, and struggle to take them seriously except for the fact that they attach themselves to a large part of the student’s grade. The missing links here present themselves as sharing and caring.
The current essay-writing system looks like this: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Teacher grades/comments on essay. And then what? You’re given an essay back with, let’s say, a “B-” on it. What do you do? Keep it in a folder? Frame it on your wall? Burn it? (Sometimes you find steps 6 and 7 which look like “Student revises essay” and “Teacher re-grades/re-comments on essay” respectively, but that doesn’t really change anything.) Because of this lack of completion of the essay-writing process, motivation to write a good essay solely depends on the reward/punishment feedback system of grades which, let me tell you, breaks down under a surprisingly small amount of intellectual pressure.
If we, taking more than a few pages from the Agile Learning process’ book, make the essay have inherent value it turns from an excuse for someone to either castigate you or pat you on the back into something much more powerful. Let’s say we implement a new system. Here’s how it works: 1) Teacher assigns essay. 2) Student writes essay. 3) Student and teacher work together to make the essay ready so that 4) Teacher and/or student shares essay in a relevant online community or another place where it would have value or use for others. Using this method, every essay-writer becomes accountable to other humans who value what the essay-writer has to say. The motivation problem becomes addressed, if not solved, and the system fosters the idea that children and teenagers can, and should, contribute in real ways to the larger community, an idea that conventional schools entirely disregard and even deny.
As an add-on to this system, students should write about things that they take a genuine interest in. The reader can hear the tone of the writer through the writing and it affects how much the reader engages while reading. The reader will enjoy a piece of writing as much as the writer enjoyed writing it. A good essay never comes from apathy. It stems from enthusiasm for the subject at hand. Students must care about what they write about for anything valuable to unfold.
Interested students writing and sharing useful pieces that have intrinsic value will create the best work possible and will learn the most.