Consider holding a symposium or conference as part of a final project for a writing- based class.  For this final project,  issue a call for papers to the students, listing possible panels for which they can propose an essay (keep panel titles short and general, allowing students enough room to interpret and choose; proposals need only be a prospective title and a few sentences of intention).  The students have the opportunity to work with any text(s) they choose, to create their own research questions, to pursue their own interests within the framework of the class.  The panel will work together as they draft, workshop, and present their final essays in a conference at the end of the semester (can take place over 3 days, in a venue different from the classroom, if possible).  Two students outside the panel moderate, introducing each speaker, keeping them to their reading times, and soliciting/asking questions. This is the nifty part: they sound smart, confident, fully aware of the possible objections to their arguments—and they are given the opportunity to defend/explain themselves in question/answer sessions at the end of the presentations (which, in my experience, they will do beautifully).  Note: they should have a separate grade for essays and for their participation in the symposium, just to ensure an active scholarly community.