A couple of weeks ago I attended the DePaul Teaching and Learning Conference, where I got to hear a colleague of mine talk about her work with the Digital Youth Network. Denise Nacu is in my college and I should know more about her work, so I was happy to hear what she had to say. At one point she talked about the roles that educators can play for students and particularly mentioned the role of “promoter,” meaning someone who showcases or highlights excellent student work.She was referencing this paper in particular, which is worth reading.

I liked that she was drawing attention to the idea of promoting student work since I’ve found it to be a productive classroom technique. For a long time I’ve used excellent student submissions as model solutions for assignments. I ask students with submissions that are clear, very well done, or unique in some way if I can start a class discussion using their submission, and most of the time they’re fine with it. In fact, some of them get downright excited as witnessed by the following email response I received last week from a student when I asked if I could use his solution:

Absolutely! I was actually hoping that one of my homeworks would make the class example! Thank you 🙂

I do try to balance the choice of students, for example, by not picking a student too often. It also requires me to be very quick on the grading, since I need to know who has good work by the time I get into the class where we are discussing the assignment. But I like that it shows the students that their classmates are capable of producing interesting and valuable solutions, and it diminishes the idea that I’m the only one in the room with something to say.