For the traditional students, it's pretty simple: find 10-12 pieces of literary criticism on your novel, take 45-50 notes using my notecard template, and then from there we'll deduct until we arrive at ideas for a paper. The students running the independent study project need to do something similar except they a) don't necessarily need 10-12 sources, b) don't necessarily need 50 notes, and c) definitely don't need use literary criticism or my templates. (I've talked about all this before, but it's just a quick refresher).
While the process has been going along just fine (the vast majority of students are doing what they should be and learning along the way), I've noticed a change in myself...I care much much less about formatting than I used to. In my first two years, we used physical notecards and I was extremely strict on the formatting. Commas and page numbers out of place led to a huge deduction in points. In the years following, we switched to an online template, which I still made mandatory for all students. But the past 2-3 years, I've really let the note-taking methodology slide. Some students use my template, others use paper. Some simply take bulleted lists on a Google doc, while others modify my materials. And of course, some use almost no "notes" per say, but take the bulk of their information from recorded interviews and surveys. It's almost impossible to measure which method is best, and even if the methods are fair, but I've found that I'm not overly concerned either way. In my mind, this is what real world research actually looks like; you as the individual are responsible for coming up with your own organization system. The final product/presentation/decision is really all that matters.
I debate back and forth on whether or not this is a good thing. On the one hand, giving the students freedom to come up with their own methodology teaches them to make decisions (even if it's a bad one...at least they know to try something else next time). On the other hand, any good coach knows the value of teaching fundamentals. even though players need to create their own style, they should still have the rote basics down pat. And so I wonder...have my grading standards decayed over the past few years...or am I simply allowing some of the arbitrary systems that have been in place for decades to be deconstructed? Are students learning less...more...or the same under these more lax guidelines? I'm content to ride it out and see what happens, just as I have the past few years, but I still question if it's the right approach or not. My colleagues would likely find it too lenient, my Twitter "PLN" (a buzzword for lack of a better term) would probably say I'm still too strict, so I'm somewhere in the middle.
But...that's the challenge I suppose. The good news is that I'm but one of a great tapestry of teachers these students will and have had over the years. I'll likely appeal to some and be rejected by others...and they'll still get a chance to try all the other approaches.