Presentation on theme: "The Writing Corner David Klooster March 3, 2011. Thank you! Provost Ray, for providing lunch Van Wylen Library Staff, for welcoming the Writing Corner."— Presentation transcript:
The Writing Corner David Klooster March 3, 2011
Thank you! Provost Ray, for providing lunch Van Wylen Library Staff, for welcoming the Writing Corner and supporting our work Sarah Baar, the fabulous English Department Head Boss, for all the arrangements David Cunningham, for taking over the Center for Writing and Research next year You, for your time. I’ll try to use it well.
Works Cited John Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey Bass, John Wiley, Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Johnson Anderson, Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College, 2 nd ed. Jossey Bass, 2010.
A two-minute review of our workshop on assignment design
Elements of Effective Assignments The assignment itself should be well written! Task—a clear, brief statement of what the student is to write about. Often stated as a problem to solve or a question to answer. Role and Audience—try to avoid always asking the writer to assume the role of student writing to a professor—impossible! Instead, assign a role of authority, and an audience of lesser knowledge—or at least a peer audience.
Elements of effective assignments Format—length, mss form, documentation style, organization, etc Expectations about process to be followed—proposal, research dates, first draft, peer review, conferences, revisions, etc. Criteria for evaluation—tell students right from the start how their paper will eventually be judged. Refer to criteria repeatedly during the writing process to guide success.
“The writing teacher’s ministry is not just to the words but to the person who wrote the words.” --William Zinsser, Writing to Learn
And yet, Writing comments on student papers may be the least examined part of many teachers’ pedagogical practice. Many of us “do unto others as was done unto us.” Someone wrote “awk” or “sp” or “agr” or “good point” on our papers once, and now we do the same. So what do students hear in our comments?
Spandel and Stiggins, “Creating Writers” 1990 When a teacher writes “Needs to be more concise,” students react this way: Confusing. I need to know what you mean. This is an obvious comment. I thought you wanted details and support! This frustrates me! Define “concise.” Vague, vague
When a teacher wrote “Be more specific,” the students heard You be more specific. I’m frustrated. I tried, and it didn’t pay off. If I do, my paper will be too long. I feel mad—I wrote what I could and you don’t seem to like it. I don’t know what else to say.
When a teacher wrote “You haven’t really thought this through,” students reacted this way : That is a mean reply. I guess I blew it. I’m upset. That makes me madder than you can imagine. How do you know what I thought?
When a teacher wrote “Try Harder!” students reacted this way: I did try! You’re a stupid jerk. Maybe I am trying as hard as I can. You don’t know how hard I tried! This kind of comment makes me feel really bad and frustrated!
Coach vs. Judge The purpose of commenting on student writing is to coach revision. We should try to spend our time at a teachable moment in the student’s process. We judge student writing by comparing performance with established criteria. (The judge doesn’t make up the law along the way, but rather applies established law to a particular case.) We don’t always need to write many words to do so, but instead can rely on rubrics.
This approach is supported by research now underway with Hope students: What kinds of professor feedback are most useful to you? I find that if you get the paper back with comments and it’s the final grade, I might read it but I don’t process the comments. I’ll be like, oh I should have caught that error or something.
When I have had specific feedback, it’s been really helpful. I get confused with vague comments, but if the professor is willing to work with us and she would give the exact ways with how to provide more detail, it’s definitely more helpful than comments after the final grade.
In my analytical chem lab, I had to write a big formal report and the professor went through it and marked it up, and once I fixed it up, it was done. I felt as though my finished product was what the professor was looking for because he marked up the draft and I understood what he wanted.
I think it helps the critical thinking of our papers when the professor doesn’t give vague comments but leaves room to add more or look back over your sources instead of just correcting little errors. Maybe more critical engagement with the paper, really thinking through it again.
My roommate turned in 3 lab reports but didn’t get any back and didn’t know if he was doing well, had no idea. He didn’t get lab reports back til the last week of school. I had a [humanities division] class where he graded the first two papers but didn’t give any feedback and then he didn’t grade the rest of the papers because he said he was too busy, and then had us take the final together as a group. We had no idea how we were doing or how we could do better. Getting the papers back in a timely manner would be nice.
It doesn’t help if it’s given back to you the day before the next paper. Timely feedback prepares you well because you feel more confident in your writing style and the teacher’s expectations and the content of the class.
The best feedback is feedback that makes me want to write more, like if there was a question the teacher asked or affirmation that made me feel like I could really do this. I think the point is to make the student want to do more.
Higher Order Concerns: ideas, organization, development, clarity Does the paper follow the assignment? Does the writer have a thesis that addresses a problem? What is the quality of the argument itself? Is the draft well organized at the macro level? Is the draft well organized at the micro level?
Lower Order Concerns: grammar errors, misspellings, punctuation, awkward sentence structure Richard Haswell, “Minimal Marking” (College English, 1983). Instead of circling and labeling errors, place an X in the margin next to a line that contains an error. Don’t record a grade until the errors have been fixed. You save a lot of time if you relinquish your role as copy editor, and students learn more if they assume this role of finding, indentifying, and correcting errors.
Lower Order Concerns Identify your pet peeves before students submit their papers, outlaw them, and establish stiff penalties. For example, “I will reduce your grade by one full letter grade if I find a comma splice in your paper. I’m serious.”
Don’t waste your time on papers that haven’t been carefully written Check sheet for literary critical essay __I read the assigned story at least twice. __I revised the essay at least once. __I spent at least five hours on this essay. __I started the essay at least three days ago. __I have referred to the grading criteria often. __I proofread twice for grammar and punctuation. __I had another person read and respond.
Focus on two or at most three issues Writers, especially inexperienced ones, are overwhelmed by too much feedback. Confine yourself to two or three categories of response.
Writing End Comments: Seeing the caterpillar, imagining the butterfly Strengths Major problems Recommendations Your goal is to challenge the writer to deepen and complicate their thinking, and to motivate the writer to keep writing.
examples Pete—you seem to be on the right track with quite a few very promising sections, but your ideas are thin, lacking both focus and development. Please make an appointment with me (or the Writing Center) to work on finding a better focus and thesis for this paper.
Excellent draft, Sarah. Although I had trouble at first seeing your problem and thesis, along the way you present very interesting ideas. I especially liked your section on the actual photographs. But in many places I was lost. For the next draft: Rewrite the intro to clearly identify your research question and thesis. Work on organization—especially paragraphs and topic sentences. Make it easier for the reader to follow Rethink what you say about Sontag, p. 4. I think you misread her argument.
Six Principles 1. Comment first on ideas and organization; encourage students to solve higher order concerns before turning to lower order concerns. 2. Whenever possible, start with positive comments. Praise what is good. 3. Write an end comment that reveals your interest in the student’s ideas.
4. Avoid overcommenting. 5. As you read, indicate your interest in specific passages. Comment on ideas, raise questions, make suggestions. Be specific. 6. Resist the urge to circle and identify errors. Students will improve more quickly if they find and fix their own errors.
Next opportunity… Text Mark-up. March 8 (Tuesday) 3:00-4:30 PM Granberg Room Using technology to monitor, shape, grade, and enhance your students' writing, including but not limited to Google docs, pdf markup, and wiki. Sponsored by ACAT and Library, and conducted by Barry and Kelly.