online response to writing: a whole new ball of wax (ci.5410.13)
For the past year and a half I have been a writing consultant at my university's writing center. My consulting occurs in different ways: face to face; asynchronous response; and synchronous chat. I would say that each setting brings about different writing practices on my part.
face to face consulting:
I would have to say that I prefer face-to-face consulting for two reasons: 1) because of the personal connection you establish with the person, made possible through seeing them, body/facial expression and all, and 2) because I feel that we can get so much more done.
Face to face consulting allows me to "adapt" my practices to the writer and writing situation. This is probably because I am able to communicate more quickly and am better able to "read" the person and situation. Having the person right there I am able to gauge whether I am understanding what they asked for and whether I'm giving them the feedback they were looking for, or if I need to modify my style of delivery to be more or less directive.
Because I'm given only a few written directives from the writer, and not nonverbal feedback, I find myself slipping into a more directive style of feedback. When I say "directive" I don't mean that I tell the writer what to do, but rather, I notice myself asking fewer questions than I do in face-to-face, probably because there is no one to answer them in the moment. Instead I find myself taking on a more reader based form of feedback in that I narrate what I think the writing is saying and where I am confused in my reading of the piece.
While I think this works most of the time, I feel that it doesn't work well in situations where the piece of writing is very poorly organized, because then it seems that all I am saying is that I don't understand. There have been two instances where I have reviewed papers where I made many comments about organization, in essence voicing that I was very confused. In those instances, the writers never showed up for the second part of the consultation, which is the live chat. My hunch tells me that my response style offended them in some way and they did not want to return.
This is where I find the online consultation to fall short of the full experience of f2f consulting. My comments on the papers mentioned above, were not stated in an offensive way, yet they may have come off that way because there was no person, not even the blinking cursor (like in the live chat experience) behind them to soften the delivery.
I find live chat feedback to be a blend of the above two forms. While I cannot see the writer, I can constantly ask the writer questions to see if I'm missing the point. Chat, because of its spontaneous form, also allows for more play with language for purposes of humor or lightening the mood of what may get too serious. Asynchronous feedback does not have that same tempo. It feels so much more formal, and as a result, the feedback comes off formal, even if I try to create a warm feel with opening and closing comments.
In thinking about my future practices of online feedback, I think I might start making fewer comments on the student's text and more comments on a separate screen, as notes to myself to address in the chat. This would allow me to familiarize myself with the text, but at the same time, it wouldn't create this formal mood, that at times may offend students.
As you can see, I'm still thinking about a lot of this.