Each time I assign an essay in my rhetoric course, I meet with students one-on-one to go over their rough drafts. I love those 20-minute conferences. At their best, they work far better than written comments in a draft’s margins at helping students improve their writing. They’re also revealing. I’ll read a draft aloud, explaining that we notice things in our writing when we hear it that we would miss if we only read silently. Then I turn to the student and ask: “What did you think? How does it sound?”
More often than not, students look at me like I’ve got two heads. The question has never occurred to them. What do they think? They want to know what I think.
Here’s what I think: Students are behaving rationally when they are surprised to be asked for their opinions about their own writing. Part of that is relational, institutional, hierarchical. They wrote the draft because I, their instructor, assigned it, and because I, their instructor, will assess them for it with a grade that will, in part, determine whether they pass the course and get college credit.
[ Read the original article at The Chronicle of Higher Education. ]
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