Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NU English prof shakes a finger at writing instructors

This letter to the Globe is in response to an op/ed piece complaining about how students arrive at college without basic writing skills, something I experience over and over again each semester at two different universities.   

I really don't know how to respond here without getting in trouble. This will save me a lot of work? 
I do invite this prof to read my students' raw copy. We don't have a lifetime; we have a semester.

(T)the research on teacher response to writing is clear: Marking every error only overwhelms students and alienates them from their writing. Effective teachers of writing identify a small number of patterns of error — perhaps three per writing project — and then teach students how to correct these errors themselves.

Effective writing teachers also help students care about what they have to say so that they are motivated to say it more effectively. Miller is silent about the content of her students’ writing. She apparently views their texts only as occasions for correction. Miller may wish students came to her with the “fundamentals’’ of writing, but the truth is, learning how to write is a lifelong discipline and it requires instruction, not “fixing.’’ All students, including those in college, deserve teachers who actually teach them how to write.

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