Open vs Guided Assignments

Some argue that a good blog post has links to other blogs, websites or documents, but why that has to be the case? If I don’t insert a link somewhere in this post, is it bad? The answer is NO, because what should matter is the content. However, if blogs are framed as a collaborative learning tool, then the answer is yes. The reason for this introductory statement, not related at all with the title of this post, is because I am not going to insert any link, even thought to a certain degree I am supposed to do so, according to suggested blogging guidelines provided at the beginning of the semester. Hopefully you will link my blog somewhere for others to read :).

Before I elaborate further, let me provide the definition of “open” and “guided” assignments for the remaining of this post. “Open” will be used in the context of a task or assignment (e.g. a blog post) for which the content/topic can be decided by the student. A “guided” assignment on the other hand, is the opposite, the topic of the assignment is given.

Definitely there are pros and cons for both scenarios. This post for instance, is the result of an open assignment, I was given no topic to discuss, the only instruction was that it had to be related with Higher Education. Out of the previous 9 posts under the GRAD 5104 category, 5 were guided. Through the semester I found that I enjoyed more writing about whatever I felt like, than when I had to write about a particular topic. I am not entirely sure why, but I guess because of the feeling of being free to explore different avenues. However, I do have to admit that determining what to write about was not necessarily easy. Usually I went to The Chronicle of Higher Education  (ok, one link, but not related with the content, so it does not count), and search for an interesting topic to discuss, and then linked that article to my post as well. This time however, I couldn’t find something really fast, so I decided to be creative and think about a topic, rather than look for one. That is another advantage of “open” assignments, they might force you to think more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, guided assignments are not bad, is just that sometimes you might not enjoy discussing certain topics, even though they are certainly important. I am trying really hard to comment something negative about them, but besides not liking a topic I can’t think of anything else. At the end, I guess I did enjoy writing most of my posts, and if you read through the GEDI F17 category, which were all “guided” assignments, you will probably see that they are written in a slightly different tone to the majority of the GRAD 5104 posts, perhaps the fact of having provocative readings as introduction to the content of each post helped my thought process. Not sure.

But anyways, even if at the end it seems like I didn’t say that much, I just want to let you know that I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone and expressing my ideas to the public, even if most of the immediate audience are my classmates, professor and graduate teaching assistant. Perhaps I should actually make a statement about open and guided assignments. I believe both work, but guided assignments might work better when accompanied by introductory materials carefully chosen to help create interest about them. On the other hand, if the objective is for students to discover their own sources and find readings to support a post, then open assignments are a better avenue.

– Carlos F. Mantilla P.



Filed under GRAD 5104

2 Responses to Open vs Guided Assignments

  1. I wonder how many of us are thinking about this right now? I agree, I enjoyed the open posts more than the guided ones. The guided ones somehow restricted me, made inspiration harder to find. The other thing I’ve been thinking is that the idea that we should link to other blogs/articles/resources might also be quashing our creativity. Sometimes the idea that everything needs to be empirical or based on something empirical is such a heavy burden. Sometimes it’s nice just to write and give an opinion.

  2. Hi Mel, sorry to reply so late. Thank you for your comment. In respect to the last comment, yeah, I am on the same boat, sometimes is just cool to write is more liberating. But I have also come to realize that for one reason or another, the more you reference people or link to other sites, the more your voice is heard. Probably because it gives a sign that you have done the work of informing yourself before writing, and knowing what others have already thought about it. And it can also be the best way to spread knowledge and work together with unknown people… but yes, at the end, not relying in others work is liberating.

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