Lead By Example: Providing Student Examples To Improve Student Submissions

Submitted by Heather Muns on

In my RDG courses my students complete weekly Reading Response Journals (RRJ). Students are required to read anything they would like and fill out a template with required information about what they read. They are required to format the information in a specific way. I observed that students consistently struggled with the correctly formatting the document and making sure they included all the correct information, and were losing many points as a result. I had provided detailed instructions on how to format the document/information but students were still struggling. Over an eight week period, on average, students were scoring 21/30 on the RRJ. I decided to embed a student example in each weekly assignment and told my students to compare their document to the example. If it did not look the same, then they needed to go back because they were missing something. After embedding the student example in each weekly assignment the scores increased to an average of 28/30.

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Average: 4.9 (9 votes)


Cecilia Rosales Thu, 04/14/2016 - 2:34pm

I like thisi idea because it gives students something tangible to llok at and aspire to. I will be implementing something similar in my class

Patricia Cardenas-Adame Sat, 04/16/2016 - 6:14pm

Heather,  Have you considered posting a sample of an "A", "B", "C" paper?  When I teach Eng 101, I provide samples for each major writing assignment of what an "A"  and "B" paper looks like. I also highlight areas that parallel the rubric.  For example, a well written thesis and or a well written conclusion.

Heather Muns Sat, 04/16/2016 - 9:39pm

In reply to by Patricia Cardenas-Adame

HI Pattie,

This is a great idea.  I have done that for long writing assignments before.  For this assignment I do have a pretty detailed rubric and then I post the student example.  With this assignment it is mostly formatting that students miss and then when they miss the formattng they miss required components.  

Olga Tsoudis Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:56pm


We should all incorporate examples to help our students out! What a great way for them to understand and visually see a "GOOD" assigment. I am going to incorporate this as well. Did you get permission from the student whose example you used? in writing? I was wondering what the process is so I can do the same. Thanks for sharing!


Peter Turner Mon, 04/18/2016 - 2:14pm

Great idea, and I need to start doing this, especially in my online classes! My problem is that so many of my assignments are so specific with regards to the information students need to disclose that an example might be easily copied . . . need to work on that.

Becky Baranowski Mon, 04/18/2016 - 2:48pm

The physics faculty pass around (after getting permission from students) what a well written journal looks like.  They then give students 24 hours to redo their journal.  This is only done in the first 2-3 weeks of the semester, and it greatly helps students understand the expectations of the class.  

Bronwen Steele Tue, 04/19/2016 - 7:26am

Heather, this is good, it reinforces the level the students need to provide. 

Teri Graham Tue, 04/19/2016 - 1:46pm


I like this idea.  Now you have me thinking how I can use this concept in my courses :-)

I have my students complete a learning styles assessment at the beginning of the semester and have found most are visual/kinthestic learners so the concept of a visual example is great!


Sarah Lockhart Wed, 04/27/2016 - 3:28pm

Such a great increase in scores!  I went to a session at a conference where they were talking about showing students a video of student presentations and then critiquing them together.  A light bulb went off in my head, because it makes so much sense, we can tell if something is 'good' or 'bad' when we see it, but if it is our own work, it usually looks 'good' or at least 'okay'.  

Roselyn Turner Fri, 04/29/2016 - 9:14am

Way to go, Heather, with another technique that guides students to success.  Sometimes students have a difficult time visualizing what the product should be, but a little guidance turns on the light bulb!  As long as we use these as concrete guides, but  encourage creativity, I find that students take the ball and run with it!  I don't believe in "mystery."

Erica Wager Fri, 04/29/2016 - 3:15pm

This seems like a wonderful way to help guide students to exactly what your expectations are. I think giving students guidance on what you're looking for can help them in doing the assignment but furthermore can actually give them some confidence that they are on the right track (I bet a lot of students would be more willing to do assignments and complete them thoroughly if they had confidence that they were doing it right to start with!)

Norma Jimenez Hernandez Fri, 04/29/2016 - 9:05pm

Heather, I just looked over the rubric and it seemed very clear on what students had to accomplish.  What type of feedback have students given in terms of what was unclear or why they didn't follow the format?  Why do you think the example worked over the rubric?  I'm wondering if perhaps adding point values would make a difference in terms of the rubric.  Very interesting.