Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Different Kind of Final Exam: Write a Cover Letter

by Ann Abbott

I don't like to give exams in my Spanish community service learning classes. My approach to teaching is to make each class period a learning event. To make students actually do something with new information. To create something, share something, post something.

But midterm and final exams are actually a good moment to pull together the disparate parts of any CSL courses. The messy parts. The unanticipated parts. The realities of engaging with living and breathing people confronting complex tasks.

After 23 years of teaching, though, I don't really want to read any more essays. And not because I'm tired of reading and grading them. I am tired of being the sole recipient of students sentences. The first and last person who reads what they worked out in their heads and on paper. The wrong audience for their ideas that could actually benefit other CSL professors, students and community members. The only one who has the opportunity to give them feedback.

So I use this blog and the Facebook Page for my courses to give students a real audience for their work. And I try to design assignments and tests that mimic the kinds of writing and knowledge production in which professionals actually engage. Social media content. Reviews. Executive summaries. Telephone messages.

And cover letters. Here are the instructions for one part of my students' final exam in "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities."

Carta de presentación (50 puntos)
·         Encuentra un anuncio para un puesto que te interese. Puede ser un trabajo voluntario, una práctica o un trabajo pagado. Busca en HacesFalta, Idealistas u otros portales que conozcas.
Copia el anuncio y pégalo aquí.

·      Escribe en español una carta de presentación de dos páginas, solicitando ese puesto. En tu carta utiliza ejemplos específicos de estas dos cosas: 1) el trabajo en la comunidad que hiciste para este curso y 2) el trabajo en equipo que hiciste para este curso. Sigue todas las reglas sobres las cartas de presentación, menos la que dice que deben ser de una sóla página. Te pueden ser útiles estas guías:
·       My advice about academic cover letters. Presta atención especial al consejo #4.
Tu carta de presentación (2 páginas)

What kind of assessments do you give your students? Do you think a cover letter requires analytical skills and critical thinking? Share your ideas in the comments, please.

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