13 Ways of Looking at Student Writing

Decorative: "13 Ways" and a blackbird (an allusion to Wallace Steven's "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird")


"Response to Student Writing: 13 Ways of Looking at It" (pdf) expands on the following 13 truths about students writing and instructors marking:

  • "No professor is capable of making comments so profoundly wonderful that a student will become a
    perfect writer on the basis of remarks on a single paper."
  • "Unskilled writers are largely unable to assign levels of importance to comments made on their papers."
  • "Teachers have a finite amount of time to spend responding to writing."
  • "Students learn to write by writing, and while judicious advice is helpful, there is a gap between knowledge and performance." 
  • "Set ground rules for yourself, and clearly convey to students what they can and cannot expect in terms of your response."
  • "'Edit' only a fraction of a paper: a selected paragraph or page."
  • "Make good student papers available to illustrate features of strong work."
  • "Develop a response rubric, that is, a list of elements of the paper, with values you can check off."
  • "As you write assignments, consider how you might respond to the kinds of writing those assignments might yield."
  • "Require students to tell you the specific aspect of the paper on which they’d most like to get feedback from you, then reserve most of your comments for that aspect."
  • "Have students write a cover memo in which they describe their strategies in writing the paper and what they perceive its strengths and problem areas to be."
  • "Use brief marginal comments to call attention to 'higher order' aspects in the paper, usually content or development." 
  • "In courses with multiple assignments give students 'vouchers' good for one detailed commentary per term."
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