Information Sheet #4

November 11, 1987


"Responding to Student Writing"

Within the last month several faculty members have asked about procedures the Writing Center uses for responding to student's writing. The following information, copied from the "Writing Center Handbook" outlines some of our procedures for handling students' papers. Each of the 14 staff members will deal with papers in a different way, but the "Handbook" provides us with some common ideas about goals and strategies.

1.      The Writer Does the Work. The Writing Center Consultant acts as monitor, suggester, stimulator, guide, reference source, and friend. The consultant is not allowed to write on a student's paper. All editing and revisions of a paper must be made by the writer.

2.     Concentrate on Major Issues. Consultants should help students tackle the important problems first. With most papers, the order of priorities should be as follows.

     A.     With is the assignment and does the writing meet the requirements of the assignment?

     B.     Does the paper have a convincing and supportable thesis? What passages are not clear? Which passages need better examples or stronger evidence? Does the paper make sense?

     C.     How is the paper organized? Do the parts of the paper fit together? Are the transitions effective?

     D.     Does the writing have problems with sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, usage, word choice?

3.      Focus on Meaning, Not Rules. When dealing with problems in grammar and sentence structure, we should help the student recognize these difficulties as a "meaning issue" and not a "rule issue." The absence of errors does not equal good writing.

4.      Listen to the Students. As often as possible, we must allow students to solve their own problems. If possible, the writer should establish the agenda for a conference. The consultant's job is to clarify options. But let the writer choose. What counts in composition instruction is the experience in making writing decisions.

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Email Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.