On Responding to Student Writing…

TeachLearnBlocks1Thanks to MaryKate, we had a very interesting discussion of the stakes involved in responding to student writing via the lens of Bean as well as Beach & Friedrich.  We spoke about the shifting perspective involved in being a student and receiving a paper back, verses being a teacher who faces a voluminous stack of papers to evaluate.  Somewhere in between these two experiences lies a real need to develop an effective practice – which honors both the developing writer, while still keeping in mind the reality of a teacher’s time constraints.

feedbackBean articulates how easy it is, as a teacher, to forget that there is a person behind each essay that is being read (sometimes ripped apart for errors) and graded. It’s also easy to forget that strong feeling of vulnerability which accompanies allowing someone to read your work—especially if that person is in a position to judge you.  We considered how much room there is for misunderstanding and misinterpretation between the writer and the writing instructor during feedback.  Bean advises teachers to be more mindful of the comments that they write on students papers because the worst comments can insult and even dehumanize a student.   We agreed that there were many useful “takeaways” or “best feedback practices” that were clearly outlined in Bean’s article.  In our classroom chat, we drew closer to the student writer viewpoint by apprehending how that foundational vulnerability that lies at the heart of learning how to write.  MaryKate had us tap into our our own memories of teacher feedback in order to gain that empathetic perspective.  The key consideration that emerged was the subtle issue of power that informs teaching and learning contexts.  When one has a position of authority/power, it is important to recognize the significant responsibility in that position.  Unfortunately for many teachers, in the haste to do one’s job, sometimes these truths are disregarded.  But the responsibility that comes with authority should remain front and center in order to maintain a mindful approach to designing an effective learning environment.


In the second half of class, you were all able to reflect further about your collaboration by identifying your current individual strengths, skills and talents.  In addition, you we able to identify areas in which you feel you might need further support.  This self generated list of both strengths and needs will certainly be useful in moving forward with future project management efforts.

The next step is to actually determine the kind of project you will all embark on together.  You have done a fair amount of initial brainstorming about this.  For the second half of next’s week’s class, you will engage in an active negotiation of the final class project.  I will leave you all to it (with the white board and dry erase markers as your “blank slate” for working out what matters the most to all of you as a group).

For next week:

Please read Richard Fulkerson’s Composition at the Turn of the 21st Century and Lil Brannon & C.H. Knoblauch’s On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.   Marisa will lead the discussion of these two texts in the first half of class.

Please blog your response to these two readings.  In addition, please include in your blog post your top two ideas for an exciting final group project (along with why you would want to do that kind of work). backchannelAnd be sure to tweet this blog post out to our hashtag #WritingTheory so we can develop on online presence for our ongoing conversations.


Next week you will all pin down your final project, so be ready to:


-think creatively

-think about a broader public purpose

-think outside the box



See you then!

Dr. Zamora