Program for the 2011 PDI

10:00 AM

Session Title:
Neither Rain, nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night: Responding to Student Writing in Any Weather
Sarah Sloane
Writing and WAC
Start Time:
10:00 AM
Session Length:
1 Hour, 50 Minutes
221 TILT Building
Within Writing Studies, we are fond of evoking the chimera of "audience," telling students that they need to know who they are writing for, why they are writing to them, and what they are trying to achieve, before they can think of what and how to say it. What does their audience need to hear? In what order will you tell them the pieces of your argument? Are you trying to inform, persuade, or make a "call to action"? What kinds of claims and support are most persuasive to your audience? How will you get their attention? When we as faculty are commenting on student writing, we need to think of our comments and responses as also targeted to a specific audience--and not to some notion of the Ideal Student Writer who will respond well to shorthand remarks in the margins like "awk!" Whatever our medium of response to student writing--"Track Changes," typed notes or letters, or handwritten comments on the page itself, students best hear their instructors when comments are constructive, specific, descriptive, focused, and don't take over the writing from the student (paraphrased from Herrington, 2003).Also, although the metaphor is a little strained, it's fair to say that our students write in many different weather conditions--adolescent or cognitive drama and dissonance, difficult dorm lives, on probation or trying to maintain a 4.0, or simply shifts in emotion or moods--and instructors respond to student writing inside the middle of a different set of pressures (including time pressures, innumerable errors not only in thinking but in grammar and mechanics, and the pace at which student papers arrive), but the stress of the two contexts are remarkably the same. This session will help instructors learn how to give focused, high quality feedback to student writing in ways that acknowledge the larger contexts (and climates) within which they compose. For example, writing responses to student papers is not solely evaluative and corrective, but at its best also functions as a writerly exchange that is constructive, generative, and engaging. Understanding how to best respond to student writing is understanding who is our audience, what our purposes are in responding, and what the main message will be for our students. Finally, learning what to do about annoying grammatical errors or problems with mechanics will be covered too.
Goals and Target Audience:
Target Audience: Faculty at all ranks and stages of their careers who are interested in learning more about effectively commenting on and responding to student papers. The goals of the session are to help faculty members know (1) Who are your students at Colorado State University? (2) How do your writing assignments suggest the criteria by which they will be assessed and guide the responding you need to do? (2) What kinds of responses are best given at what stage in the writing process? (3) Why do your students make such basic errors in mechanics, grammar, and other sentence-level mistakes? How can you help them not to?