Assignment Modification Examples, Cali Linfor and Toni Saia

Teaching Reflection

During Covid-19 our motto “we will make it work,” a sentiment that disabled students have been longing to hear most of their educational careers, became the words many students needed to hear to survive. We believe in built in flexibility for assignments to meet the needs and interests of all students. In the example above, students have possibilities on approach and modality to complete the assignment. We intentionally provided examples of ways students have modified the assignment in the past to encourage students to challenge the confines of the assignment and to think creatively. Historically, modifications are often tied to individualized accommodations that can lead to inequitable experiences for disabled students. These examples of modifications attempt to neutralize the very idea of a modification. This option to modify also supports students as they are learning to advocate for their needs and urges them to meet with the instructor as necessary.

Rather than the goal of returning to “normal” post pandemic we must systematically continue to incorporate flexibility that allows all students to fully participate.

We encourage all instructors to proactively design assignments with the flexibility that allows students to have the optimal environment for learning and improving as a reader, writer, and thinker in various situations. Rather than the goal of returning to “normal” post pandemic we must systematically continue to incorporate flexibility that allows all students to fully participate. Therefore, it is important to note that while this specific assignment was for an upper division writing course, the structure of this assignment can be used for any discipline, course, or assignment.  

The steps we took: 

  • Adopted  a “we can make it happen” approach for all students 
  • Allowed all students the option to modify the assignment in a way that supports their learning and growth 
  • Provided flexible choices for genre/modality 
  • Kept the lines of communication open between instructor/student 
  • Gave flexible deadlines

Teaching Practice: Civic Writing Project 

Research a civic issue that is of concern to a specific community of non-experts in order to identify multiple perspectives from which this issue is viewed. Use this information to create a persuasive text (written, audio and/or visual) that uses ethical persuasive strategies to advance social change or action. This project should be presented in a genre that would be commonly used to communicate with members of this community.

This writing project asks that as a solution to the problem of social perception of a community you belong to or are allied with, that you collaborate with the creator of media you admire to better/more complexly represent that community as a counterstory in their work to the dominant narrative. 

Genre/Modality Choices:

  • Formal Email
  • Formal Letter
  • Speech
  • Powerpoint Presentation
  • A Twitter Campaign
  • You Propose a Genre/Modality 

Modification of Approach Possibilities: 

I have designed Project 1 with the Learning Outcomes of the class in mind. However, how we achieve these learning outcomes can be modified to better meet your specific needs if you find that some of the specific elements of the Project in terms of content are not the best fit for your learning of these skills. I am always happy to work with you to adjust the content requirements so that you have the optimal environment for learning and improving as a reader, writer and thinker in various situations. 

Here are the learning outcomes at play in this project which all student must work towards:

  • Apply rhetorical principles appropriate to the purpose of persuading with the goal of providing a solution within a civic situation.
  • Research and contribute to specific areas of inquiry by evaluating, synthesizing, and integrating strategies and sources appropriate to a formal text to a friendly audience.
  • Adapt and employ conventions to communicate with someone who has more power than the arguer to make a change but towards which the arguer has goodwill and admiration and who is accepts the problem as existing and urgent.
  • Compose a formal text working individually and collaboratively, through processes of drafting, critiquing, reflecting, and editing.

In order to modify the prompt to better meet your learning needs, please make an appointment with me. Here are some modifications students have requested in the past:

Example 1

What did not fit: The student wanted to write to the head of an industry that too often excludes the community they are allied with and not really a media as such and ask for change in representation within trade events. 

Modification: While tricky and bordering on going into a professional writing situation instead of a civic one, we were able to make this work as the audience was friendly (not the problem) and rhetorical moves needed can be made pretty easily. The student elected to write a formal email encouraging the Sound Engineering Association President to reward companies with accessible design with desirable trade show floor locations at reduced cost working toward only allowing accessible tech. 

Example 2

What did not fit: The student had racial battle/social justice fatigue and wanted to write about something else and also please not the Pandemic.

Modification: No problem. There are different kinds of communities on our lists that we made, yes?  You can easily elect not to write about high stakes issues of race, class, gender, immigrations status, language, gender, ability, LGTBTQ + and other categories commonly associated with social justice. 

Think about social perception around roles, jobs, hobbies and so on. The student elected to write about the problems of social treatment of people seen as “smart” through the lens of the community of speed cubing and how they are viewed. The YouTube Video on a Speed Cubing Channel turned out great.

So if you are feeling that something is limiting your ability to apply and practice the skills and concepts of the class, come see me! We will make it work! It will be fine. Our class motto!

Cali Linfor and Toni Saia, San Diego State University

Cali Linfor (she/her/hers) is a lecturer, activist, poet and essayist living in the land of the Kumeyaay. She teaches Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University with an interest in global and third space Rhetorics.

Toni Saia (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University within the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education. She is a disabled woman and her professional work history has involved advocating for progressive understanding of disability.