Weekly Learning Reflections

Objectives

These follow the same motivation as the more-or-less daily reading responses, except that you’re reflecting over a number of topics and a more diverse set of readings. Therefore your reflections will be more synthetic and a bit longer. You should feel like you’re doing more or less the same kind of reflective exercise, except more big picture as you think back on the week.

Basics

  • ~600-800 words
  • Synthetic across the entire week
  • Free of typos and basic grammatical errors
  • Smooth, focused writing

Questions to consider

In reflecting over the topics and readings for the week:

  • What ideas from the readings did you find most interesting? Why?
  • Conversely, what was least interesting to you? Why?
  • How do the different topics/readings complement or contradict each other?
  • What challenges did you encounter with the readings?
  • What kinds of questions did the readings raise for you?

Reflect more than summarize

As with the reading responses, I’m much more interested in reading and engaging with what you’ve found interesting over the course of the week—especially across the range of topics—than in slogging through a synopsis of the week’s readings. A good reflection of what you’ve learned shows the effort you’ve been putting into the readings; simply paraphrasing the readings one by one really doesn’t show me anything or provide evidence of your effort to learn.

Don’t forget your learning assessment

At the end of your post, evaluate your own effort for your summary and the week using the following scale (sort of same as the daily reading responses). You are encouraged to quote from your reading responses and engagement on the discussion board and Slack as evidence for your effort!

  • 1-3: Acceptable. Skimmed the readings quickly and your response provides a coherent but rather simplistic description of what you learned.
  • 4-7: Solid. Read the assignments reasonably carefully, and your responses show that you’re thinking critically about the ideas, arguments, and evidence presented.
  • 8-9: Excellent. Read most of the assignments carefully, and your response shows you RESPONDING to (not just summarizing) various complementary or conflicting ideas presented in the readings and across the topics for the week.
  • 10: Home run. If you can’t imagine anyone putting in more work for the course this week, this is the score for you. This would mean that you spent significant time with all the readings (not just a few from each day) and consistently posted original, expressive, and sophisticated reading responses (or other assignments). Use this highest mark sparingly!

Final Learning Reflection

This is basically the same as the weekly reflections as described above, except it should be 1600 words long and cover the ENTIRE COURSE. You will NOT indicate a 0-30 score, as I will score these myself. Instead, you will make an argument for what letter grade you should get for the course and justify it by explaining what you’ve learned based on the effort you’ve put in.

The goal here is to describe your learning experience and to provide specific examples of what you’ve learned throughout the course. How has your perspective on food changed? How is your sense of food history different?

To explain what you’ve learned is NOT THE SAME as summarizing or paraphrasing the syllabus. Illustrating how your awareness about food and food history has changed or describing why the readings failed to make an impact is much more personal and shows a much greater depth of learning than simply listing topics possibly can.

I can’t emphasize enough that these should be personal statements about YOUR LEARNING EXPERIENCE, not just a summary of course topics and themes. If you are describing your EXPERIENCE with the readings and the course overall, you’ll end up including plenty of information from the course. If all you do is summarize readings without including your reaction to them, describing how it changed your thinking, or why it didn’t (again, either is fine), I can only assume that you didn’t put in very much effort to learn anything.

This isn’t a writing class so you’re not getting evaluated on elegant prose. BUT, your writing must be clear enough that I can follow the thread of your argument. Your final reflection should be well thought out and carefully written, not a stream of consciousness off-the-cuff here’s what I remember type thing. The quality of your final essay should be reflective of your effort to learn in the course. Even if you’re going for a C, this is your last chance to make sure you get at least that. You should invest a few hours time skimming through the readings again—not re-reading them—to remind yourself what you did, or maybe reading a little more of something you totally skimmed.

Make an argument for your OVERALL GRADE

I think the easiest way to nail these is to craft your Final Learning Reflection as an argument for your overall grade for the course based on the effort you put in and what you learned. You should start with that. You need to suggest an actual letter grade rather than a numeric score.

A VERY skeletal example (condensing a whole essay into a paragraph):

I think I earned a B+. I learned to think about X more carefully because of E. I realized I hadn’t ever thought about Y in terms of F before, but that it’s important because of Z. Those issues are also relevant to F and G, because of H and J. I also was really interested in reading about Q because of T; I liked how the reading on R made me think about U differently, even though that was contradicted by S. I enjoyed the readings A, B, and C because of X and Y, as they made me question assumptions M and N that I had initially. I disagreed with the D reading because of O and S. I disagreed with the B reading because of X, but liked how it described Z. I would have liked to spend more time with some of the topics, such as P, Q, and R, but I had to pick up extra shifts at work, so some of my reflections were a little thin on those days. I had a hard time following the lecture on F, so my quiz score was low, but I thought it was interesting how A and B from the lecture connected with M and N from the C and D readings. I thought the readings on J had some good ideas but I found the writing hard to follow (for example when the author discusses G), and so I didn’t incorporate them into my reflections. But I was really into J and K, and thought I wrote some of the more interesting posts of the class, particularly my analysis of G and H. I thought it was interesting how topics L and M from the first week intersected with T and U from the third week in the sense of P and Q.

You get the idea. It’s basically a weekly learning reflection on steroids—and most of you have been doing really well with those. Obviously you’ll have SIGNIFICANTLY more depth to your description in the sense that all the letters above will be well-explained and specific examples from the readings—and they won’t all be crammed into a single sentence as I have done. What what is one sentence above should be a whole paragraph in your reflection.

NOTE: Don’t just talk about how great your work has been (even if true). That’s already posted, self-evaluated, etc. This final learning reflection is meant to convey your synthesis of the whole course.

Be specific

This is what separates excellent from mediocre reflections. To say that “I learned to think more critically about authenticity” is fine AS LONG AS you provide several specific examples of the issues that you think are important to think critically about and WHY. But if you just leave it at that (the vague statement that you learned about a topic on the syllabus) and don’t provide any examples from the readings, I can only assume it’s because you didn’t read or learn very much.

Think holistically

The more you can tie themes together and speak about the course as a whole (while giving specific examples from the readings), the higher your 0-30 score will be. You should absolutely use your daily and weekly reflections to remind you of what you were thinking. But you need to go beyond these as well to reflect on the course as a whole.

I evaluate these!

Unlike the daily or weekly reflections, I give you a score for your final evaluation (0-30 points). As already described early in the course, this provides incentive to actually learn something over the course and to take care in explaining your own learning experience. Again, THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER OR LIST OF POINTS YOU SHOULD MAKE. If you are seriously engaged with the course over the month (granted some days we are all just scraping by), it will be EASY to explain what you’ve learned with specific examples.

Just to be clear: You DO NOT automatically get your suggested course grade. This is mostly because I score your final reflection on a 0-30 scale, and that’s a lot of points. My experience is that this assignment really separates people who have been consistently working from those who have been more or less faking it.

Dirty Little Secret

One reason I evaluate the final is that it helps me standardize grades across the class. While I actually do trust everyone to be honest about their effort reporting in the responses and reflections, students who get the same grade should exhibit roughly the same effort and learning. Even within a regime of self-assessment, this largely takes care of itself over the course. But ultimately it’s my job to make sure that happens since I do have to give everyone a final grade and those grades mean something. My own assessment of your final reflections allows me to get that overall comparative perspective.

To be clear, your effort reporting throughout the course is the main driver of your grade—including your overall grade suggestion in the final reflection. My evaluation of your final reflection (0-30 points) does not fully override what you’ve been reporting across the reflections or your overall grade suggestion. But it’s a lot of points and it does factor into (and can significantly alter) your final grade for the course.

For those of you who have been merely skimming the readings (if that), writing shallow posts that don’t show any engagement with the readings (this is obvious if you compare your posts to others), and reporting high effort scores, your final grade will likely be lower than what you might expect at this point because your final reflection will be so superficial (and graded down accordingly) compared to people who have been putting in the work.

For those of you (which is most of you) who have been consistently working throughout the course (again, this is obvious from the discussion posts), the challenge will be cramming everything you want to say into the final reflection. If you know you’re writing good posts but have been hesitant to say you couldn’t have done more, be assured that I usually adjust grades upward in such cases. You will not be penalized for humility!