Strategies for Responding to Writing
Reading the monographs and research articles of their disciplines, professors are sensitive and attentive readers who read quickly for the complexities of arguments, assess uses of logic and sources of proof, and formulate nuanced responses. We are capable of reading a text in multiple and even contradictory ways, depending on our purposes.
But as instructors with stacks of papers in front of us, we may feel that a direct and critical response to "what's wrong with this paper" is the best strategy. Try to balance the evaluative and formative commentary you offer, and praise the elements of the paper that students have written well. Adopting these strategies—that in some ways mirror those you use when reading in your discipline—emphasizes to students that the writing they do is an act of communication between people about issues that matter, not solely one of correctness. Students will write more and be motivated to revise more if they see their writing as a communicative act (either to you, their classmates, or some other audience) and if they receive constructive feedback from you that pushes that revision forward. Allow students to see your reactions as a reader, and model aloud how you read a text in class. This is what Barbara Walvoord calls being a "transparent reader."
- A Brief Guide for Responding to Student Writing (PDF; Harvard University)
- Thirteen Ways of Looking at Responding to Writing (PDF; University of Denver)
- Responding to Writing (West Virginia University)
- Responding to Student Text (Dartmouth Writing Program)
- Time-Saving Strategies for Responding to Student Writing (PDF; University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)
- Responding to Writing Assignments: Managing the Paper Load (University of Waterloo)