I’ve started working through an assignment that incorporated Bloom’s Taxonomy explicitly into its structure, and things are getting a little bit out of hand. What follows is some musings about what I’d like my hypothetical students to be able to do (strategic knowledge goals) and a rough draft of the first half of the assignment which corresponds to the first three categories on Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised).
Some context: this is material that I will be adapting for a future upgrading course. The History of Emily Montague is both delightful and perhaps the first Canadian novel; it is helpful in setting up a question of how Canadian identity is shaped by the narratives in Canadian culture. So, without further ado…
Big ideas: The History of Emily Montague is both delightful and engages with some of the questions I’d like to structure my broader course around, primarily the role of culture as a hegemonizing force in the pre-Confederation period. But this is all content stuff. In terms of strategy, over the course of this assignment, I’d like students to learn to select quotations and use them in an essay, to make inferences from their reading and be able to reasonably explain the significance of those inferences, and to write a literary essay which engages in the primary source text. I think it’s also reasonable to get them to create some kind of reference framework (perhaps collaboratively). Also, because I teach things like upgrading, there should be some basic academic skills like annotating and note taking and whatnot.
I’d also like to consider student motivation. Because this is an important factor, I feel like there should be options somehow. Which is why I’ll suggest group work and stuff.
[Interjection: There’s not a lot of explicit motivation stuff in the descriptions which follow; however, most of the stages of the assignment will present choices. According to Ambrose, providing choices is a way to increase student motivation.]
The History of Emily Montague Unit Overview
This set of assignments is designed to engage with the epistolary novel The History of Emily Montague on a number of levels. Each step in the assignment corresponds to one or more of the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. [insert introductory text, which lays out specific outcomes for this unit: note taking skills, summarizing, quotation selecting, using dictionaries to help tease out connotations, incorporating secondary sources/they say I say, outlining, and essay writing.]
(5%) Section 1: Remembering
Option 1 – Table of Contents (Group Assignment)
In a group of 4-6 students, create a table of contents for The History of Emily Montague. Each entry should have the following information: Letter Number, Author, Addressee, and a sentence-long description of the contents.
||Ed tells John he is looking for land that he is entitled to as a part of his wages from the army, and suggests that settling in Canada may be romantic, but a better choice than in New York.
The purpose of creating a table of contents like this one is to:
- Practice summarizing information so that it can be quickly recalled later
- Use an organized structure to help locate specific information for future assignments
- Collectively read the entire text, and benefit from communicating with classmates
Option 2 – Select one of the following characters (Lucy Rivers, Ed Rivers, Arabella Fermor, John Temple, or Emily Montague), and read the letters they have written. Then, identify the following:
- What does your character want?
- How are they connected to the other characters listed above?
- Why are they in Canada?
- What are their goals – either personally or professionally?
- What are two or three obstacles that these characters must overcome? Are they able to do so?
The purpose of this assignment is to practice reading and recalling information.
(5%) Section 2: Understanding
Select letter 6, 10, 11, or 16 and paraphrase it into your own words. Follow these steps:
- Print a copy of your letter out, and annotate it. (A version in modern typesetting is available here.) Underline:
- Big “so what” ideas or thematic points
- Facts/details/plot points
- Turns or critical moments (is a decision made, is something requested?)
- Connections to prior knowledge (how does this letter connect to what we already know about the character and plot of the novel?)
- Key Quotes
In addition, have any questions about the text, or disagreements with the character, write those in the margins. Finally, select three words and in point form suggest what connotations they might have in this letter.
The purpose of this step is to practice annotating a text. Annotating can help to improve recall of information, and can be an important step in thinking about the contents of a text in a more strategic way.
2. Paraphrase the letter, idea for idea. (In terms of how to organize your paraphrase, you can imitate the structure of the letter. Your paraphrase may be somewhat shorter, but this is partly due to the change in writing conventions between the eighteenth century and now.) Please format your paper using the MLA Guidelines.
The purpose of this step is to practice summarizing information. When we summarize texts, we are highlighting the most useful information and presenting it in an understandable and organized form.
When you’re done, submit both your paraphrase and annotated letter stapled together.
(5%) Section 3: Application
Option 1: Respond to Letter 72, 132, or 152. In each of these Fermor suggests a solution to one of the challenges of Anglicizing the formerly French Province of Quebec. Provide a criticism of Fermor’s logic, and then suggest an alternative solution to the challenge he discusses.
In preparing your letter, you will need to complete at least one of the following challenges:
- Consider Pease’ concept of national narratives in “National Narratives, Postnational Narration” and what relationship the proposals that Fermor puts forward have to the inscribing of a proto-Canadian identity in Quebec.
- Look for a primary source document in the Early Canadiana or Early Encounters in North America database which relates to the relationship between the Catholic church, the French language, or relationships between settlers and indigenous populations.
- Read the introduction of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (pages 1 – 23), and identify connections between the systems that Fermor would like to implement and the issues identified in the report.
Use direct quotations or paraphrase the information you find to help support the argument you are making in your letter. As a rule of thumb, one quotation per paragraph is sufficient.
The purpose of this assignment is to practice selecting quotations and using them to support arguments. A secondary purpose is to conduct research and integrate the information discovered into your own text.
Option 2: Dating Profile
Prepare a dating profile for one of the main characters in The History of Emily Montague. Review the letters they have written, and select two or three qualities that would make them an attractive partner in an eighteenth century marriage. (Remember: marrying for love is a new idea at this point, while marrying to transfer and consolidate power, money, property, or influence are not uncommon in the social strata these folks move in.)
Once you’ve completed writing the profile, in a paragraph suggest why you’ve selected the traits you have, and provide references to the text to justify your choices.
The purpose of this assignment is to determine which character attributes would be most helpful in enhancing their social lives, and to support your choices with connections to the text.
So, in terms of questions I have:
- Do the proposed assignments seem to fit into their designated levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and are they sufficiently qualified that a student who is paying attention in class would likely be able to read this and then run with a given assignment?
- Does stating the purpose of the assignment sufficiently reveal some of the strategic knowledge that should be necessarily tested or enhanced by completing the assignment? Or is more information required?
- If you were a student in my class, which of these would you choose? What questions would you have about how to proceed?