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March 30, 2006

Brannon and Knoblauch, "On Students' Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response"

The authors contend that, when writing instructors read student work, we sometimes ignore the writer's intentions and impose our own "ideal text" on the writer. When we thus "appropriate" a student's text, we often focus more on making sentence level corrections to the work which, while well-intended, has the effect of showing students that the "teacher's agenda is more important than [the student's]" (214). Further, this focus "compromise[s] both our ability to help students say effectively what they truly want to say and our ability to recognize legitimately diverse ways of saying it" (215). Instructors should move away from this "paternalistic" approach to a more student-centered focus where we provide feedback that can help facilitate revision. Multiple draft assignments can help accomplish this goal, as can individual conferences where the instructor acts as "sounding board" rather than as "authority" (218). Peer response and instructor comments (but not corrections) are also important in helping the writer make effective choices in revision. Even when "face to face" interaction with the writer is not possible, the authors suggest "simulating" a conference by having the student write out their intentions for a draft in the right hand column next to the actual text of the draft in the left. The instructor thus has a much clearer view of the writer's intentions and can comment more effectively on the work to help the writer realize those intentions. Brannon and Knoblauch acknowledge that, at some point, student writing must be evaluated. Evaluation should only occur, they argue, after the writer has received peer and instructor feedback, has had the opportunity to revise, and has decided on their own that they are ready to have their work evaluated (221).