This won’t be a lengthy post but just some further thoughts on the links to a discussion of grading that appeared in my May 7th post, and on a comment made in response to that post by a colleague. I invite graduates of writing programs to leave comments on the relationship between the grades they received while in the program to the evaluations of their writing they receive now, both from readers and from themselves. Did grading help them improve their future writing? Did it help them revise their writing? Was it done in a way that resembles the kind of critiques they receive now? Should it be done in that way? Did the grades they received motivate them to write more, or were grades a negative motivator, something they had to overcome in order to write again? Derrick observes, accurately enough, how immersed new college students, and most others as well, are in the notion of grades as the most appropriate way to evaluate writing in an academic setting. It would be helpful to hear how college graduates, and particularly those graduates who do a fair amount of writing as part of their work, or as active citizens, or as a form of artistic expression, view the role of grades in their evolution as writers.
Several years ago I used to do something called inductive rubrics in my first-semester college writing classes. I would ask students to bring to class samples of what they thought demonstrated good writing; the samples could be their own writing or someone else’s, including published writing. I would get a lot of material students had been assigned to read in high school, or even in my class, but that didn’t matter. Then I would put the students in groups and ask them to identify traits they saw in the samples that made those writings “good.” I would collect all the groups’ contributions, copy them, and return them to the groups, where the students would then formulate a grading rubric they could choose to have me use when evaluating their own papers. This process made the students feel, as Davidson’s probably did, that grading was something they could influence. Of even more value was that the exercise helped them develop a vocabulary for thoughtful discussion about writing.
After a while I stopped using this process, because I wanted to do other things, and the activity took up a fair amount of time. But I am contemplating trying a version of the exercise again, making the time because of the learning I saw occurring when students worked up those rubrics. An example of a rubric students developed, and samples of positive writing traits they used during the process, can be found in the following publication:
Strickland, Kathleen and James. “Demystifying Grading: Creating Student-Owned Evaluation
Instruments.” Grading in the Post-Process Classroom: From Theory to Practice. Ed. Libby
Allison, Lizbeth Bryant, and Maureen Hourigan. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1997.
The fact that I have cited sources in my last three postings, including this one, brings me back to one last point Derrick makes in his comment, that “arguments in blogs differ from writing developed from sources used to create arguments over an extended time and page length.” One subject that I have returned to occasionally in this blog is what makes for an effective blog posting, and what characteristics do such postings possess. (See the posts of March 16 and 28.) I hope that people writing blogs do sometimes make arguments drawn from source material. It may not be an essential trait of the genre but, depending upon the ethos the writer is seeking to establish and the argument the writer is trying to make, it certainly is a possible trait. A writer could begin with an academic paper and transform that content into a blog post, or a series of posts. Or, as Derrick suggests, blog posts can be used as an invention technique while developing a more extended argument. Either way, one could look at blog postings as an evolving form that could accommodate traits not yet commonly associated with the genre.