The “job description” activity

This morning was the first back from our fall break at Piedmont Virginia Community College and marked the official half way point for this fall semester.  Wanting to take some time to reboot, refresh, and reflect, I lead students in a class activity intended to start a conversation about expectations of our roles in the classroom.


I asked students to write two job descriptions–one for a college student and one for a college instructor.  I assured students that their responses would be anonymous, ungraded, and thoroughly appreciated.  I gave them about 10 minutes and then collected responses and moved on with my planned lecture for the day.

After class was over, I aggregated the students responses into two typed documents–one for the instructor job description and one for the student job description.  I then used each document to create a word cloud using an online generator.  These generators are keyed to frequency.  The one I used groups similar words and lets you exclude words of your choosing.

After getting the students’ clouds complete, I created my own.  I wrote my own job descriptions and then used supplemental documents to add some depth to the pool of words for each.  For the student job description, I added text from my syllabus, course contract, assignment instructions, and class participation rubric.  For the instructor job description, I added my statement of teaching philosophy.


Below are the word clouds created for one of my sections of Public Speaking.  The differences are remarkably instructive.  I’ve just distributed these images and invited students to share their thoughts in an online Discussion Board.  I’ll also be setting aside a bit of time in our next class meeting to discuss what we’ve come up with here.  I’m really interested in what kinds of feedback I get and I’ll update this post with what I learn.