U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Student creativity when I need to grade their fulfillment of the expectations

I am not a teacher to automatically stifle creativity in order to get all my students to think my way. But I have a student this semester who wants to challenge every assignment and I’m not sure how to deal with them. I think part of the problem is that this is a senior in a 100 level class.Their first paper was an ahistorical metaphor and now their second paper outline wants to primarily use outside sources, when the assignment was to deal with the material presented in class (i.e. not do a research project, which this department doesn’t assign to 100 level classes).

How do you assess the line between creativity and fulfillment of the assignment? Is fulfillment a baseline, on which creativity is built, or should creativity be honored no matter what form it comes in? Where is the line between requiring the same expectations of every student and responding to the particular needs of individual students? We say we want students who are concerned more with the learning than with the grade, but what does that actually look like? Will they take such responsibility for their learning that it becomes something other than what you intended for the course (because it is what they want to learn)? How do you provide flexibility while maintaining the cohesion of the course? How do you grade someone who is so far off the grading rubric?

One Thought on this Post

  1. Creativity does not have to be solely understood as coloring outside the lines. If the student finds it more attractive to write a good paper with other sources, perhaps it is because they also find it easier to do this. I would suggest to them that the challenge of any given assignment is to figure out how to write a quality, thoughtful, and even creative paper from within the confines specified by the assignment.

    Also, I and others have often found that students who do not want to follow the guidelines of a given assignment consider themselves smarter or above the assignment — which they well may be, but it means when they get a lower grade because as graders, (especially TAs), we are obligated to subject everyone to the same metric of whether or not they fulfilled the assignment, they are resentful and, apparently, indicate that they felt entitled to something better by virtue of being “above” the assignment as given.

    All of which is to conclude that I do not have much patience for this behavior.

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