Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Mandating Outlines as Part of an Assessment

(Estimated reading time 2.5 minutes)

Quite some time ago ( >10 years) I was sent to a Professional Development day that featured John Hattie. Although I was not in agreement with everything he had to say, there were some takeaways that changed my practice, and one of those was the use of outlines.

In his list of effect sizes was: Making an outline before writing a paper, effect size .85. (that’s good :-)

Benefits of Outlines

It made sense to me - if students are forced to make an outline they think holistically about an essay/paper/assignment instead of obsessing over the first sentence or paragraph. They are more likely to sequence the information logically. It helps students who are usually paralysed by the thought of an assessment get started, which increases submission rates. Ensuring there is a cycle of feedback on the outline increases the quality of the final submission.

More importantly, in the event that the student does not submit the essay/paper you could assess the outline for elements such as discussion, analysis or evaluation, even though it is not a fully fledged essay they can often meet parts of the assessment and sometimes even scrape through with a C-. At worst they can usually meet a D which enhances their grade point average in comparison to an NA (Not Assessed).

Outlines mandatory done in class (open browser) dot points only hyperlinked to exemplar contains success criteria (rubric) feedback given before the next lesson   Benefits include   improves quality of final product improves submission rates gets students started helps students sequence their essays provides inter

The Process

This is an example of an outline. To prevent students from trying to write the entire essay I restrict them to a maximum of one page. Apart from the dot pointed structure of the outline, I include a rubric so students can reference the success criteria, I also include a hyperlink to an exemplar outline (an A example of a similar task). 

It is important to present the task in the lesson before the outline lesson, I give the students the task sheet and set research for homework. Most students get started on their research, some almost finish the outline, and yet others don’t do anything before class. 

Just before the class (usually a double lesson) I push out documents for the students to write in, via Google Docs. By using Google Docs I can monitor all the outlines as they evolve and see who needs assistance getting started. If any students have completed the outline before coming to class I can give feedback on it and grade it during the class, they can then get started on their essay.

By monitoring the folder in my Google Drive I can order student work by “last modified”. By seeing that Johnny hasn’t edited for the last 15 minutes is very effective at identifying students that are stuck.

By monitoring the google folder you can see when students have last modified their document.

Through the use of Google Docs not only can you have greater support and supervision of student work, but it can also be used as a tool to detect plagiarism. If plagiarism is suspected, the Chrome extension Draftback can be used. It can play back the version history of any Google Doc as a condensed video, this shows edits and detects slabs of text flying in. I have used this tool before and it can provide the proof you need to establish plagiarism. Outlines and apps like Draftback are probably even more important in the era of websites that can automatically paraphrase (e.g. and AI tools like ChatGPT. Usually if you advise students that you have access to this tool they are less likely to plagiarise in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment