Read and Respond for 2/18


To some extent, we are all always already practicing a postpedagogy with our students, in that none of us exclusively teaches seniors or graduate students who have a high level of familiarity with the genres in which we are asking them to write. Therefore, I think we each have experience handling our students’s frustration, confusion, and failure. Reflect upon one such experience. No need to offer up an “and they lived happily ever after” narrative here. Give it to us straight.

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3 Replies to “Read and Respond for 2/18”

  1. I’m struggling to answer this question since I don’t have one experience that stands out from the rest. Even as I constantly clarify my assignments and add rubrics, I continue to have students express confusion and ask questions. I can usually provide enough guidance and even examples from past student assignments, as well as my own papers from college, to clear up any confusion. I also allow students to revise and resubmit major papers.

    I haven’t experienced any students coming to me after the fact and expressing any frustration or feelings of failure, although one student did email me (after he submitted his paper) with a “minor suggestion.” He wrote that the assignment (7-10 pages analyzing a film as a document of historical memory) was “too lengthy” and he required only a few pages. Moreover, such a prolonged paper needed more guidance and direction to meet the page requirements. Finally, the paper took way longer than it should have. I thanked him for his input, and responded that I am always available to provide additional guidance and direction, but I would take his ideas into consideration for the future. (I did shorten the page requirement by one page. And while I did have examples of successful papers, I now make more of a point of announcing it.)

    I guess that was more substantial than I remembered! This student did feel emboldened to offer me suggestions on numerous occasions. And then I caught him self-plagiarizing and we had to have a discussion…

  2. My WIC class tends to turn on a lot of lightbulbs. I provide my students with structure that they’ve never experienced before which makes writing “not so scary” anymore. Most of the work my students produce is pretty good so I don’t have many stories of failure, but I do have one instruction that students tend to struggle with a bit; I ask them to write the conclusion to each paragraph in the first sentence of the paragraph. I think most of them have never thought about structuring a paragraph this way before. We analyze journal articles to see how this looks in context and they start to see it. However, when they go to write their major argument paper they often fall into their old pattern of writing.

    This term I programmed a “backwards outlining” assignment into the class so that they could clearly see if their first sentence summarized each paragraph. This assignment was unfortunately cancelled with our school closure, so I asked them to do it on their own as part of their first draft reviews. I can tell who did this and who didn’t, so prompted most of them to re-read their first sentences as part of their editing process. I will definitely try this assignment in the spring, assuming we won’t be snowed bound in May!

  3. I am not sure that I have ever really given students a lot of freedom to be creative with their writing, nor do I feel like my students wanted that. Most students seem to be hyper-focused on “what is required” or what the constraints are, and to make sure that they hit those points. The ambiguity they struggle with is more in wondering if they met the instructors expectations. To some extent, I guess this is fine. If I am teaching them to write in a formulaic “scientific” way, then how to write is constrained. Within this context, thought, if find it hard to have students reflect honestly about their draft. In other words, they are so concerned with what I think, they make the minimum changes that I suggest, and think they are done. I need to get them to relax and re-read their drafts with fresh eyes, to find their own errors and make the paper better. I like the “backwards outline” assignment from Kara. I encourage them to outline their drafts, but maybe this needs to be an assignment.

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