Responding to Student Writing Essay

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Responding to student writing is rife with potential — potential to help students improve their writing, potential to encourage a writer to continue, and potential to make the student feel like a failure. The written text used to responding to student writing, the end notes, the marginalia, is hugely influential to student writing, but largely ignored. John Swales might identify this kind of text as an “occluded” genres—texts that are produced on a very regular basis in a composition class (including syllabus, assignment prompts, etc), but are largely ignored or viewed as inconsequential. The result of this kind of ignored text is that responses to student writing vary greatly and, when scrutinized, generally demonstrate very little substance and very little direction for the writer. In addition to ostensibly useful feedback such as guidance, praise, and corrections—comments that effectively lead students to improve their writing, the marginal comments also include negative and seemingly useless remarks ranging from non sequiturs to failure, meanness, and cruelty.
In part, the wide range of useless comments occurs because most teachers of writing are never taught how to effectively respond to student papers. Sure, many composition classes are taught by Literature scholars (or others), but writing classes are also taught by Composition scholars who, while versed in theory, oftentimes never learn the practical task of marking up student papers. If teachers of writing have been trained in effective ways to respond to student writing, it may from their experiences as a tutor in the Writing Center. To be fair, the field of Composition has explored many ways to effectively respond to student writing. The problem is that it is that te...

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...of Responding to Student Writing; or, Looking for Shortcuts via the Road of Excess.” Across the Disciplines 3 (2006): 21 Jan. 2010 .
Horner, Bruce. Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique. Albany: State University of New York UP, 2000.
Johnson-Shull, Lisa. “Teaching Writing in the Rabbit Hole: The Curious Use of the Non Sequitur as a Staple in Teacher Comments.” Unpublished Manuscript.
Rose, Mike. “Narrowing the Mind and Page: Remedial Writers and Cognitive Reductionism.” College Composition and Communication 39 (1988): 267-302.
Sommers, Nancy. “Across the Drafts.” College Composition and Communication 58.2 (2006): 248-257.
Swales, John M. “Occluded Genres in the Academy: The Case of the Submission Letter.” Academic Writing: Intercultural and Textual Issues. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1996. 44-58.

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