THE UNESSAY: AN ASSIGNMENT USED TO HELP STUDENTS REDUCE PANDEMIC STRESS
The use of essays and research papers has long been a preferred method of assessment in a variety of courses; however, they generally follow specified formats that do not allow for much creativity, and often end up being unimaginative summaries of the materials explored in class. An alternative to this type of assessment is the UnEssay, which gives students an opportunity to creatively interact with course themes, conduct research on their selected topic, and demonstrate their understanding in any manner that is meaningful to them. For example, students can write a poem, draw a comic, or compose a song about some aspect of the material. Any sort of submission can work, so long as the message is communicated effectively and is in line with the content and ideas presented in the course. This type of assignment allows for higher-order thinking wherein students expand upon their knowledge of a given topic, gain skills in finding information, critically appraise a variety of information sources, and practice communication skills to effectively and concisely convey information and ideas. The UnEssay submissions far exceeded expectations and demonstrated a high level of engagement with course material. Here, I will share the experience from multiple perspectives: the instructor’s, and firsthand reflections from the students.