College Writing | An Elon University Academic Blog

Mar 09 2011

Understanding What Students Do with Feedback – Michelle Trim

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“Improving our feedback based on an analysis of student outcomes (grades/ assessment) might include an assumption that all learning is already known and knowable by the teacher. This means that grades could be seen as proof that the intended parcel of knowledge was successfully acquired by the student. He/she followed feedback cues appropriately in order to assimilate the intended knowledge correctly, and that activity is reflected by student performances on tests or other metrics. This transmission idea doesn’t translate well to practice-based learning such as writing. It also does not allow for the surprises, the ways that student learning drives teacher learning in an ongoing, recursive process. In making space for recursivity, I wish to approach feedback situations as dialogic discussions, [which] means that the response of students to the feedback must be considered valuable to the extent of possibly re-shaping the original claim by the teacher. To be perceived as valuable, student responses need to be invited. This cannot happen if teachers are seen as the ultimate authorities. How can students see themselves in a dialogue if they view feedback as judgment rather than advice that they might not have to take exactly? Students may ignore feedback, but how often do they openly refute or engage with it? The point being that students might respond to feedback in the same way as any number of other one-way directives which claim to invite their participation, but don’t really mean it. Making ourselves clearer is not the same as making more space for student agency, and agency is required for deep learning to occur.”

Mar 09 2011

Providing Feedback by Video – John Pell

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“Last semester I began using a screen-capturing software called JING, which allows you to make a short videos (5 minutes) of whatever is on your screen. After having students submit papers electronically, I was then able to create a personalized video that both provided visual representations of areas that needed work (highlighting passages for example, moving paragraphs, etc. ) and my comments in the form of audio track that followed the action of the screen. The students really loved this approach and I was not only able to provide a lot more feedback (I found 5 minutes of speaking to be much more than I could ever write) but it made grading much quicker.”

Nov 10 2010

Program Assessment and Student Writing

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Principles of Effective Writing Assessment

The National Council of Teachers of English and the Council of Writing Program Administrators advocate that “effective, meaningful, and responsible writing assessment” should:

  • Place priority on the improvement of teaching and learning,
  • Demonstrate that students communicate effectively,
  • Provide the foundation for data-driven, or evidence-based, decision making,
  • Be informed by current scholarship and research in assessment,
  • Recognize diversity in language,
  • Positively impact pedagogy and curriculum,
  • Use multiple measures and engage multiple perspectives to make decisions that improve teaching and learning,
  • Include appropriate input from and information and feedback for students,
  • Be based on continuous conversations with as many stakeholders as possible,
  • Encourage and expect teachers to be trusted, knowledgeable, and communicative, and
  • Articulate and communicate clearly its values and expectations to all stakeholders.

Excerpted from NCTE-WPA White Paper on Writing Assessment in Colleges and Universities

These principles apply to both program and classroom contexts. Further, NCTE and CWPA emphasize that assessment should be appropriate, fair, and valid. In other words, the assessment should fit the context and the decisions that its results will guide. It should be fair to all assessed groups, and if assessments impact individuals (i.e., impact a grade, a graduation requirement, etc.), the expectations and purposes should be clearly articulated in advance. Finally, the assessment instrument should measure what it purports to measure.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments, as part of the learning process, help both students and faculty determine what adjustments need to be made to facilitate student achievement of learning goals and course objectives. Formative assessments are most effective when they involve students. Students can participate in formative assessment through:

  • Goal setting
  • Self and peer assessment
  • Student record keeping
  • Reflection

“Responding to writing does not begin when you start to read student essays; it starts much earlier, at the point when the assignment is made.”
(Edward M. White, Assigning, Responding, Evaluating, p. 126)

What formative assessment strategies do you use in ENG 110? At what points in the writing process do you offer formative assessment?

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments gauge, at a particular point in time, students’ learning in relation to course objectives. Our project grades, course grades, and program assessment all can function as forms of summative assessment.

“Teachers’ comments can take students’ attention away from their own purposes in writing a particular text and focus that attention on the teachers’ purposes in commenting.”

Nancy Sommers, “Responding to Student Writing,” p. 148

How well do your summative assessments correspond with the course objectives? What strategies do you use to keep summative feedback focused on a project’s learning goals? On a student’s learning goals? When summative assessments also can function as formative assessments (as with project grades given early- to mid-semester), how do you draw students’ attention to the ways your feedback can inform their future writing?

Formative and Summative Assessment – Balancing both in ENG 110

Writing classes should balance both formative and summative assessments, and formative assessments should occur early enough to allow adjustments to the learning process.

Consistency Across Sections/Instructors

To enhance our program assessment, it’s valuable for faculty to routinely discuss how they would score sample papers. These conversations and exercises help us increase consistency in our assessment across sections and instructors. They also give us an opportunity to discuss the learning outcomes associated with our shared ENG 110 course objectives and the General Studies goals that our course supports. Furthermore, these discussions often prompt us to share how we support students’ development towards meeting the learning outcomes in our individual sections of ENG 110.

To facilitate today’s conversation, you received a sample paper, copies of the program’s direct assessment rubrics, and a scoring rubric. Please take a few minutes to read and score the paper.

What characteristics of the student paper informed your scoring? Where your scores similar to those of others scoring the same paper? Through discussion, were you able to come to consensus?

Oct 12 2010

Strategies for Teaching Students Writing Process Strategies – Tips Adapted from our Rhetorics

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Writing: A Manual for the Digital Age by David Blakesley and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen

  • Invention (Chapter 1-3):
    • Thinking about Context from the writer’s perspective and the reader’s perspective.
    • Analysis of the textual, immediate, and social and historical contexts for the writing situation.
    • Examine the rhetorical situation.
    • Freewrite. (See p. 34 for tips on freewriting on a computer.)
    • Generate alternatives with group brainstorming.
    • Write a dialogue to represent multiple perspectives.
    • Make a cluster map.
    • Define, compare, or examine cause/effect.
    • Researching as invention (see p. 41).
  • Drafting (Chapter 4):
    • Work with a partner to narrow your topic by asking each other questions and considering the subtopics of most interest to you.
    • Refine the thesis statement (see pp. 47-51 for activities).
    • Examine whether the writing situation calls for a thesis (see p. 4).
    • Examine body paragraph structure with T-R-I (Topic, Restriction, Illustration) and T-R-I-R (Topic, Restriction, Illustration, Restriction) examples (see pp. 54-55).
    • Color code key terms used to keep the reader on track (pp. 56-57).
    • Examine the functions of transitional expressions (see p. 58).
    • Write alternative conclusions.
    • Create working or topical outlines.
  • Drafting & Revising to Develop Ideas (Chapter 5):
    • Revise a paragraph, or the whole paper, for unity.
    • Revise for topical flow.
    • Color-code transitions, pronouns, and other lexical ties that aid coherence.
    • Experiment with using parallel structure to create coherence.
    • Extend description or process analysis (see pp. 76-77).
    • Analyze use of: cause and effect, definition, contrast, problem-solution paragraphs, narration, exemplification, and/or classification and division.
    • Diagram classification and division.
  • Revising (Chapter 6):
    • Use a self-evaluation checklist (see p. 88).
    • Examine your response to the rhetorical situation. See p. 90 for self-assessment questions focused on audience and purpose.
    • Respond from a reader’s point of view.
    • Focus on small parts of the draft: the introduction, a body paragraph, or the conclusion.
    • Evaluate evidence used (see pp. 94-95).
    • Gloss paragraphs to reassess the organization of the text.
    • Track versions with file naming conventions (see p. 98 for an example).
    • Point, summarize, and reflect (see p. 101).
  • Editing (Chapter 6):
    • Use the paramedic method (see p. 99).
    • Have your computer read aloud (see p. 107).
    • Read line by line.
    • Read sentences in reverse order.
    • Focus on global issues, then local issues.
    • Review for your own patterns of errors (see p. 109 for some common style and mechanics mistakes/errors).
  • Reflection: Describe your writing process. Consider how the writing process might change depending on the type of project and the rhetorical situation.
  • Part 1 (the first six chapters) of the text focuses on “Managing Your Writing Process,” and others process strategies are scattered throughout discussions of research, design, style, and reading and writing critically.

Everything’s an Argument by Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz

  • This text includes a variety of rhetorical strategies that could be introduced as part of the planning or drafting processes.
  • The faculty member would need to help student connect these rhetorical strategies to the development of their own writing process strategies.

The Academic Writer by Lisa Ede

  • Part 1 (Chapters 1-3) examine the rhetorical writing processes.
  • Part 3 (Chapters 8-12) offer additional strategies.
  • Invention:
    • Freewriting, looping, and brainstorming.
    • Clustering and asking journalistic questions.
    • Asking topical questions.
    • Research and discover drafts.
  • Planning and Drafting:
    • Write a workable plan.
    • Manage your own drafting process (see pp. 256-259).
    • Focus on thesis statement.
    • Follow textual conventions.
  • Revising:
    • Self-assessment (see p. 283).
    • Soliciting feedback from different groups of readers and using that feedback.
    • Revise for style (coherence and voice).
  • Reflection:
    • Reflect on your experience as a writer.
    • Identify and analyze your composing process (see questions on p. 35).

Meeting of Minds by Patsy Callaghan and Ann Dobyns

  • Chapter 1 includes an extended discussion about writing process strategies.
  • Chapter 2 includes an extended discussion about rhetorical situations and includes strategies for matching rhetorical choices to the situation.
  • Chapter 11 includes 27 pages of strategies for revising.
  • Chapter 12 focuses on editing.
  • Planning:
    • Brainstorm
    • Sketch
    • Talk to people
    • Ask questions
    • Argue against your idea
    • Gather information
  • Revising:
    • Add material
    • Delete material
    • Reorder material
    • Connect ideas
    • Make substitutions for clarity or emphasis.