Gender in a Foreign Culture Assignment

Author

Joseph Moser

Assistant Professor, Department of English Studies

Fitchburg State University

Citation

Moser, J. (2014). Gender in a Foreign Culture. Fitchburg State University.

Description

​This assignment is designed to provide a rigorous semester-capping research and writing experience in a second-semester freshman course on writing, gender issues, and research methods. More specifically, it aims to engage students in a comparative analytical study of social and cultural traditions, problems, and forms of progress in a foreign society.

Background and Context

The main purpose of this assignment is to provide a rigorous semester-capping research and writing experience in a second-semester freshman course on writing, gender issues, and research methods. More specifically, the assignment is designed to engage students in a comparative analytical study of social and cultural traditions, problems, and forms of progress in a foreign society (in terms of gender/family). More succinctly: I would like students to give in-depth consideration to an issue or problem that a foreign society handles effectively, which could, in turn, be viewed as a model for American social and/or political institutions. I have mainly used this assignment in a course called Honors English II, but also twice in a non-Honors course (Writing II).

My assignment addresses at least four of the five “Intellectual Skills” in the Degree Qualifications Profile: analytic inquiry, engaging diverse perspectives, information literacy, and communication fluency. It also requires some demonstration of quantitative fluency through the use of comparative statistical data. In terms of “Broad, Integrative Knowledge,” the assignment requires students to apply methods of inquiry, examine significant debates and questions, and make evidence-based arguments. I consider this a challenging assignment targeted at second-semester freshman-level students.

Reflections

What has worked well: Students have generally found valuable and accurate information on a foreign society/culture and used various kinds of credible sources effectively in their research, and I invariably learn about other cultures along with them.

What hasn’t worked as well: I’m not sure how well the assignment works to promote reflection and specific comparisons concerning a problem (relating to gender issues) that is prevalent in the U.S. In that regard, I’m concerned that the assignment might ask too much of students, considering their level and the relatively short length of the paper. In recent semesters, in an attempt to remedy this problem, I have revised the guidelines for Part II of the assignment and raised the suggested word count/length requirement for the paper.

I use a fairly basic holistic rubric for grading:

  • 50 points for the quality of the content, specifically the depth of analysis in all three sections and use of quantitative data to support a comparison between two cultures/societies
  • 25 points for the overall quality of sources and the effectiveness of the student’s integration and citation of sources (i.e., information literacy)
  • 25 points for the overall “communication fluency” of the paper, including sentence-level polish and clarity of structure

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