Hi team!

I hope you are well.

I wanted to offer a reflection of a session I had this morning in which a Childhood Studies student came to me with a task I had never encountered before.

I am particularly interested in what you would have done in the same situation, so please do feel welcome to leave your thoughts and comments below.

The task was to create a 1000 word ‘vignette’ and then a 2000 word annotation of the ‘vignette’. 

The material I (or rather we!) had to work with consisted of two case studies outlining two childrens’ childhoods. There was no accompanying task sheet, just the above statement in her notebook.

I asked the student if there was a task sheet or PowerPoint slide available that we could refer to, but she said there wasn’t.

Not knowing what a vignette was (and Google not offering much help either) I was truly stumped, and found myself almost guessing what she had to do. I guessed that she needed to write an assumption of how the children in the case studies’ future would turn out, and then the annotation would consist of research to back this up.

However, terrified of setting her off on the wrong foot, I advised that she went and saw her tutor to clarify what she needed to do.

My heart really went out to the student and I felt like I hadn’t helped at all in –  what turned out to be – a very short session.

Can anybody offer some enlightenment on writing a vignette in an academic context?




2 thoughts on “Vignettes

  1. I think we have all been in a similar situation, where a student has a task which is unclear, and therefore referring students to their tutors is always worthwhile and an important part of the process. When you mentioned the word ‘vignette’, which isn’t a common assignment task, I felt that I should offer my response, since this is one of the tasks that is set on one of the courses on which I am currently co-teaching. Therefore, I am aware of the fact that the module coordinator has provided a two-page instruction sheet for this task, which is available on Blackboard. I realise that the student in question said there wasn’t any additional information available, which was unfortunate and misleading for you. Sometimes our response to how a student introduces a task, or our response to the student’s own reservations/doubts about the course or tutor, can add to the confusion. As mentors, I think we are modelling an approach, and if we were students struggling to understand a task, then perhaps our first port of call would be to look at what was available on Blackboard. I often ask students during tutorials to log in to his/her Blackboard, so that they can get a feel for the site, and (hopefully!) find the information for themselves. Also, asking students whether they have discussed the topic with their peers might give you an insight into the situation/task, and offer more information for the tutorial, which is always helpful!
    Hope this helps.


  2. Hello

    I would have responded to this sooner – but I’ve been fully booked and haven’t had a moment to comment. A couple of weeks ago I also had a student with a vignette – clearly from the same module.

    She too was very confused but did have all the supporting documents printed which included an example vignette and annotation. The assignment did seem a bit tricky, mainly because it isn’t what we as students and mentors are not used to seeing. In my session, we spent a lot of time looking at the example and figuring out together what the writer of the example had done. A vignette is an account (thanks Google – I’d have said you probably wear a vignette…) so going from the definition – the 1000 word vignette would be an account of the two children, drawn from the case studies. As we worked through the case studies thinking of main points to include – my student could see how she could compare the two children and how substance abuse (the main focus) could affect their development in a variety of ways.

    We then moved on to think about the annotations. She firstly didn’t understand what this meant, or what the numbers related to. We did a bit of work on this, and she understood how the vignette would need to be written in a way which focussed on the theories she’d be bringing in, and how the two pieces of work were in fact much more interconnected than she initially thought. We concluded the session with the student realising that the vingette was a description of key events/ characteristics, and then annotation was a seperate documenting detailing theory and analysis.

    I also asked her to clarify the assignment with her tutor, as the vignette asked them to write a prediction in 5 years’ time, but we were both confused as it also mentioned adulthood. Nevertheless, the writer went away feeling more confident – but I stressed again for her to meet her tutor to clarify the task and run over her thoughts of what to write, just in case I’d missed an important element.

    This session was an enjoyable one, and the assignment, once we understood what to do, seemed to be actually rather a nice interesting task to do!

    So – more vignette sessions please 🙂


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