Hope you don't mind, but I'm using my "loaner" RR from when I accidentally wrote during our midterm. I did the reading but am too burned out to write a new response!
Dr. Susan Wolff-Murphy
18 October 2011
RR 7: Shaughnessy, “Some New Approaches toward Teaching,” and Huot, “Reading Like a Teacher”
In Huot’s “Reading Like a Teacher,” I found a lot of connections between writing center theory, WAW, and some readings in Technical and Profession Writing with Dr. C. I always feel as though my reading responses are so disjointed, but it’s so hard to pinpoint exactly what I want to write about, especially when I find the readings so appealing! Excuse the mess of an overworked brain; these journals are my attempt to paint a bigger picture and to make somewhat obscure and not-always-obvious connections between the sub-disciplines of English, rhetoric and composition studies.
When discussing written feedback teachers leave on student papers, Huot cites Richard Straub. It seems to me that Straub is very much influenced by writing center theory. When writing responses to student writing, Straub argues that we “be conversational, that we not control the student text, that we limit the number of comments (a reference to Haswell’s “Minimal Marking”, perhaps?), that we focus on global rather than textual concerns, that we focus on the stage the writing is currently in and that we make use of praise” (Huot 130). Many of the seminal works in writing center theory advocate these same practices in writing center consultations. Although in the writing center this type of feedback is typically verbal, tutors (ideally) are supposed to leave the ownership of the text with the student, limit the number of lessons covered, and focus on HOCs? instead of LOCs? (well, as much as a tutor can negotiate this, anyways). I definitely see where Huot’s coming from, though, when he responds that these methods for written response to student writing are acontextual (130). Tutors often do not know the exact situation in which the student is expected to compose, since tutors often are not taking whatever courses their tutees are enrolled in. Tutor knowledge of teacher expectation is often hit or miss as well. Huot is also very much concerned with exploring the theoretical backing behind this type of thinking. I imagine, again, that Straub’s strategies are somehow influenced by or purposefully mirror WC and composition studies theory and practice.
So why should we minimally mark (or leave only a few really important comments)? According to a study cited by Huot, students usually don’t even understand the teacher’s message! (131). While this is troubling, I do not personally find it surprising. Other studies indicate that written feedback often leads to a wide variety of forms of miscommunication… maybe keeping our written feedback short, simple, and human (always remember a person with feelings is reading your feedback) is really best for all parties for many reasons. If written feedback seems to cause so many problems anyways, why mark all over it and take ownership of the student’s text? How is that going to help the student?
I think the most important suggestion that Huot offers is when he writes that leaving written feedback is rhetorical. This idea that all writing is rhetorical has come up again and again in the freshman comp reader Writing about Writing as well as in many of our course readings in Tech and Professional Writing (like the Rutter article we read a few weeks ago). It seems obvious enough that all writing is rhetorically situated (rhetor, audience, exigence, constraints, according to Grant-Davie), but why is it that writers and teachers of writing so often forget this? Of course written feedback is rhetorical: the teacher is the rhetor, the students are the audience, the exigence (maybe up for debate) is to help students improve their writing/writing process and the constraints are limitless. If teachers fail to see their written feedback as rhetorical, then I don’t even know what to think…. Clearly, the teachers must not be thinking if they fail to make this connection. We preach to our students that they keep their audience in mind and that they keep their purpose in mind; it seems like common sense, then, that teachers leaving written feedback on writing do the same. Could you just imagine a student responding to a teacher’s written feedback: “Did you keep your reader in mind when you wrote this comment? What purpose does ‘AWK’ serve?”
I wish I could leave an entire reading response for the Shaughnessy article. I agree primarily with (and personally enjoy) her discussion about how “mess” is writing and saw some connections between Shaughnessy and Ann Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” on page 9 when Shaugnessy equates prewriting/messy drafting to “wilderness”: “Any technique of organization, however, that ignores the wilderness, that limits the freedom of the writer to see and make choices at every step… any technique that sacrifices this fullest possible play of the mind for the security of an outline or some other prefabricated frame cuts the student off from his most productive thinking.” Get the writing out- don’t worry about fitting it into a mold or making sure every sentence sounds correct—this is how writers like Ann Lamott and Stephen King get from “writing” to “written”.