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September 2010 | Volume 68 | Number 1
Giving Students Meaningful Work
Dana H. Maloney
Give students autonomy, purpose, and opportunity for mastery—then watch them change the world.
It's spring 2010, and my 26 seniors are inquiring into such topics as poverty; child abuse; New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; global citizenship; loving relationships; the immigrant experience; school shootings; and how people in South Korea and Ireland cope with their historical, political, and religious inheritances. Individually and collaboratively, the students have created and pursued questions focused on addressing—and solving—environmental, social, and political concerns in the world today.
This inquiry and action project takes place within the context of my English class and as a meaningful remake of the traditional term paper. My students still write a college-level paper in which they synthesize information drawn from a variety of sources, and literature is still the foundation of this paper, but students now read books not only as works of art but also as source material for problem solving. Reading literature, consulting other sources, and writing the paper have become stepping stones to action, as students devise and implement social action projects that they share at an in-school inquiry and action fair as well as with other authentic audiences.
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Copyright © 2010 by ASCD
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