It Can’t Be a No-Brainer…

It’s nearly mid-term (well, technically, it’s exactly mid-term – somewhere between week five and six is mid-term for an eleven week course) and, in accordance with the “deal” I struck with my boss over my hybrid class, it’s just about time for me to offer them an extra credit assignment.  I’m looking to you, Dear Readers, to help me decide what to give them.

Here’s some information for you to ponder as you consider the possibilities for the assignment: the students are working toward a degree in culinary arts – they’re all chefs-in-training.  The topic of Monday’s class will be “the research paper.”  I want whatever they do for me to be substantial and for it to require a commitment of time and effort, because I will be willing to erase up to four zeros from their grades.  I want a one-week due date (that will be firm – they miss it, they lose it).

I’ve discussed this with Kizz already, and she’s given me a lot of good ideas – have the students research a local restaurant or write a review of a meal, among other things – but I want to make the students work a little more than that.  I’m trying to figure out how to include that kind of thing in the assignment, though, because I do want for the work to be relevant to what they think is important in their lives.

When I asked my husband to help me think of appropriate assignments, he came up with asking them to argue either for or against the value of English classes to their future careers.  While I love the implications of that assignment, I’m not sure I want to invite that kind of academic argument into my classroom.  If ever there were a group where the majority of the students resents the hell out of having to be in my class, this is it.

So, what do you think?  Give it some thought and leave me some ideas, please.  I don’t want to kill the kids, but I don’t want to toss them a softball, either.  I look to my friends and readers to help me reach middle ground on a lot of things, and here’s a perfect opportunity for me to make good use of the community I’ve created here.

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4 Comments

Filed under Questions, Teaching

4 responses to “It Can’t Be a No-Brainer…

  1. Laurie

    When we train kids to write for their standardized tests, we try to get them to connect to prior knowledge, current events, or relevant stories from their lives. You could require the same type of personal connection, only with research.

    They could explore how healthy the reviewed food was and discuss whether restaurants have a moral obligation to keep the food healthy.

    They could research the history of and traditions surrounding an ethnic meal.

    They could survey other diners at a restaurant and compile statistics to support — or negate — an opinion they hold.

    They could analyze a particular law governing the food services industry, including interviews with and observations of local restaurateurs.

    They could create a business plan for an imaginary restaurant, preferably a sort that does not currently exist.

    None of those should take a full week.

  2. While I like Laurie’s ideas, I disagree on her perception of time needed to do those projects. Now I know not all of your students are carrying an 18-credit work load (oh holy potatoes please shoot me), but they ARE taking other courses. Her assignment suggestions would need at least a week and a half if not two weeks. I’m not kidding! Some of those are intense…interviews?!? Sheesh.

    Prof English gave us a great extra-credit assignment over Super Bowl weekend. We had to choose one commercial and perform a rhetorical analysis on it. One page typed discussing who the audience was, did the commercial reach them and which appeals (see email) it used. The assignment was quick, easy and we were ALREADY doing it. It was perfect…for a quick 10 points.

    A slight variation could be, have them watch their favorite cooking show, take notes and then make the meal in that episode. Then write a two page paper discussing the following: Does it take as long as the chef says it would? Who is this episode for? Moms on the go? Romantic but clueless boyfriends? Professional, educated chefs? What would they personally change? Are the instructions clear? Does the meal actually TASTE good? Are there different ingredients that could be used, and why? This could be where the research would come in.

    You could even have them bring in the meals on the due date and have a little taste testing/60-second presentation on the meal discussing the main points from their paper. OR….

    They could make the meal for another person and put that other person’s reactions in their paper.

    I’m not sure if this is “RESEARCH-Y” enough for you. I’m a college student….I avoid the library like the plague!

    Have a great week!

  3. Organic Mama

    These are excellent suggestions!

    I think that you could give them a menu of option, listing the required paper specs of font, page length, spelling grammar, citing resources (and how many), interview questions, etc and any one of those and other topics.
    Perhaps give the option of researching something foodie-like that they would not normally know, like the origins and uses of obscure kitchen ingredients/techniques, and then have them come up with a recipe and make a sample for a class banquet??? I know I am getting carried away!
    Topics zinging through my mind:
    * History of Cordon Bleu
    * Organic Food – why bother?
    * Strange foods – one culture’s delicacy is another’s pet
    * World hunger – what’s in those care packages fropped by the UN and how effective is the food to stave off starvation?

    Have fun!

  4. jrh

    What about a take on the “if you could have dinner with any person…?” question. If you could COOK dinner for any person…? Who? What would you serve? Why?

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