Author Archive

How Students Really Feel about Feedback

By Rachel Gintner - Monday, April 16, 2012, 12:10am

Tying together the results of my survey and the expectations I had for my research project on student perspective of professor commentary was actually a rather interesting process. I found that I was excited to see what students had to say about professor feedback.

I’d like to share some of the interesting data that I saw as a result of this voluntary survey sent out to St. Norbert English majors and minors.

For instance, when students are given the chance to have a rough draft before a final version of a paper, most do not discuss their paper with their professor when formulating their first draft, after receiving feedback, or in the process of revision for the next draft. Granted, a solid 45% of these students claimed that they “occasionally” get the opportunity to revise for a better grade, with “frequently and “rarely” getting to revise at a common percentage of 23%.

However, it was nice to see that most students take the liberty of revising more than what a professor believes should be changed when students receive feedback on a paper. When asked if they make changes that a professor does not advise or mark on the paper, 40% of students answered they “frequently” do so and 45% said they “occasionally” do so.

Another interesting tidbit, which I suppose should be obvious but surprised me, was that students value constructive criticism as long as it is paired with positive feedback. When asked what comments are most helpful to a student, comments that specify improvement, or comment on structure, organization, flow, and the thesis (argument) of a paper, are highly valued. At the same time, students also felt it was beneficial to have comments on what they did well and marked this as another valuable type of feedback.

I have more to share, but this is where my research ends for now. I think it would be interesting along with the numerical data to collect more journal or free-style data outlets for students. There seems to be a slight disconnect between what people check off and what people write in detail, as my survey varied between multiple choice/check box format and short/long answer. If willing to comply, students are very insightful and honest about professor feedback which says volumes more than the numerical data that can tend to overgeneralize a situation.

The google form was a really helpful tool to use in creating my survey, but I wish I had known more about it from the start!

(I took a mini detour, it seems, when I was compiling my data… this is my tangent, folks.

You see, I am not good with technology. I call my laptop computer a monster-baby because it’s old, heats up like crazy, is slow, can’t go anywhere without a fan, and the battery lasts about an hour off charge. But this is mostly besides the point.

The point is, my frustration with technology extends to myself and how dumb I can be sometimes. I never used google docs before this semester, so I was happy to discover the format of the google form to use for my survey. But what I failed to realize was that the fancy google form also puts together a summary of all your findings. Pie graphs, bar graphs, calculated totals and percentages.

Of course, I found this out after I put together my own spreadsheet, compiled the data, etc.

Thank goodness I perused the toolbar before I got all mathematical and started figuring out percentages!

Sigh. tangent over)

Conversational Appointments

By Rachel Gintner - Sunday, March 25, 2012, 3:54pm

One of my recent writing consultations took on a very interesting focus. Usually when a student comes into the Writing Center, as a tutor I begin with the basics: we look at the assignment, establish the due date, see how far the student is in writing, and then I will ask what the student would most like to focus on. I think the last tactic of orienting the appointment around the student’s concerns is beneficial because not only does the student take the initiative, but they are also forced to prioritize their concerns.

However, the appointment I encountered last week was markedly different than the above process–which was interesting and refreshing. While we addressed the basics, the student took control of the appointment head-on. More than guidance, what she sought was dialogue. This varied drastically compared to the usual appointment. Many students come in specifically concerned about one particular thing: their thesis, or grammar. I would say another universal worry is if “the paper makes sense,” to which this student wasn’t immune. I am the same way–after working on a paper for endless hours it is easy to become desensitized to the clarity of your own writing style. Yet, this student wanted to talk out loud about her paper. While there were underlying concerns there about clarity and structure, the main priority was to simply talk through what she had written.

I think this appointment has something interesting to say about the better way to write. Firstly, something missing from the writing process from my own writing experience at St. Norbert and perhaps from others, is encouraged dialogue and discussion about papers. Albeit, one of the reasons writers are probably lacking in this conversational aspect is because of time constraints. College is demanding. Peer-review even during class is a rare and often unsatisfying endeavor. In my personal experience, I am often hesitant to ask a roomate or friend or classmate to look over my paper–even though I desperately need a second-opinion–because I know how busy everyone is. Probably the only opportunity for students is the writing center–where people are paid to look at student writing. (disclaimer: but we like doing it! mostly!) Sure, professors are usually more than willing to discuss a paper, but this can be another issue of time. The point is that there is not a lot of organic, open, and encouraged discussion about student writing simply between students.

It’s a pity that an atmosphere of engaging dialogue seems to be on a small level or missing from the student writing process. While the appointment went well, and the student was satisfied with simply having someone to talk to about what she had written, and researched, and what she was finding out: this was rare. I think there are elements in most Writing Center appointments that encompass the one I had, but I think the main priority of simply having a conversation, a dialogue, about the student’s writing was unique.

A Tech-Savvy Writing Center

By Rachel Gintner - Monday, December 5, 2011, 9:44pm

When I first started to read the articles for class today about multiliteracy writing centers and the use of digital media in writing assignments, I became extremely nervous extremely fast. I am not, in any sense of the word, “tech-savvy.” Sure, I can navigate my way around a few websites and put together a decent powerpoint, but what these readings were proposing about emerging multimodal writing centers and the media-expectations of tutors, was fully beyond my skill-set concerning technology.

(In other words, a well-appropriated “yikes!” resounded in my head a few times…)

However, despite my frightening lack of technological expertise, I recognize that the realities presented in articles like “Words, Images, Sounds: Writing Centers as Multiliteracy Centers” by David Sheridan and “New Media Matters: Tutoring in the Late Age of Print” by Jackie McKinney are relatively feasible for tutors who are not necessarily technology-prone, such as myself. And moreover, they make a compelling argument about why such technological training and advancements within writing centers are needed, for in the 21st century, we as students “are asked to produce Web pages, PowerPoint slides, desktop-published documents, and even digital videos–compositions that encourage design, visual communication, and media in ways that the traditional academic essay…historically has not” (Sheridan 336). While the argument can be made that St. Norbert college itself has not fully made the transition from “the traditional academic essay, printed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper with one-inch margins” (336) toward entirely web-based writing assignments, the advance of technologically centered writing and media creeping into the education system is a likely reality.

Concerning writing tutors and their involvement in the event of new media, I found a few suggestions helpful in tutoring techniques for digital work. First and foremost, tutors will require training in all of these emerging technological arenas (“computer-mediated literacy, cyberliteracy, electracy”) to better assist those students from a knowledgable standpoint (337-338). As Sheridan points out with the example of Michigan State, “additionally, the center [at MSU] offers a series of whole-class presentations that explore basic issues related to digital composing” (um, yes please) which enables the tutors and WC instructors to constructively mold both the tutors (through their training) and the writing center itself into something applicable for our technological era.

Additionally, the idea of tutoring students about new-media documents seems much more approachable considering the similar rhetoric used. For instance, simply stating that “new media texts make fundamentally different types of arguments” explains a lot to me, in a familiar way, about how I can approach this new writing form (McKinney 347). In other words, if I, as a writing consultant, view this technologically-spiffy document as just another mode of communication with a specific argument, I’m golden! MCKinney describes Cheryl Ball’s take on the purpose of digital media as a depature into new argument-forms altogether: digital media “radically departs from print conventions as it asks readers to compose the argument by dragging and dropping audio, still images, and text to play together in an order determined by the viewer/reader” (347). While I am still apprehensive about guiding students on how to achieve and/or strengthen an argument which is so uniquely interactive, I can understand the interactive and multi-layered approach the argument will take in this tech-environment.

Moreover, I learned a lot about the impending transition writing centers will take to become more “tech-savvy” in their tutoring emphasis and overall values in preparing students for our technological world.

How do other consultants feel about this projected transition of writing centers to “multiliteracy centers”? What were your reactions to the new requirements for tutors in the technological field? (scared as I was or happily tech-savvy and ready to conquer the tech-world?)

[cheers for my last post of the year!!! 🙂 huzzah!]

McKinney, Jackie Grutsch. “New Media Matters: Tutoring in the Late Age of Print.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 4th ed. Eds. Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 249-62. Print

Sheridan, David. ”Words, Images, Sounds.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 4th ed. Bedford/St. Marin’s: Boston and New York, 2011. 334-344. Print.

Language as Identity

By Rachel Gintner - Monday, November 28, 2011, 10:08pm

It’s always eye-opening to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and one of the best ways to do this is through reading. Anne DiPardo’s article, “Whispers of Coming and Going”: Lessons from Fannie, set the stage for experiencing Fannie’s writing-history through the eyes of a non-native English speaker. I found the article provoking and insightful–it definitely made me “question the assumptions” I make about students and think about how to “negotiate our relationship” in a way that defines the tutorial based on the student and their experience, rather than the tutor and their writerly knowledge (233).

For starters, I keyed in right away when DiPardo references the idea that as “basic writing teachers,” writing consultants should “become students of their students” (234). While initially skeptical of how reasonable this ideal is for our often random, one-visit, 30 minute sessions, I agree with DiPardo (who references this idea from Mina Shaughnessy) that as tutors we are always reset with a blank page to fill about our next appointment, or incoming student. In other words, we become learners of our student, but not necessarily as this learning pertains to the student and their identity or background as much as we assess the assignment and its history. However, as consultants we are often gleaning insight from our charge (…yea, I know, “charge,” but it fits) about their writing style, as well as their writing process concerning a particular paper. In any case, I like how DiPardo emphasizes that tutoring students on their writing should be about establishing that a students’ identity matters when they write: it puts the responsibility on us as tutors to attempt to build this relationship and layer of understanding.

One of the most important insights I took from the article deals with tutor-tutee relationships on a broad level as well as the social context of native and non-native language speaker interactions. DiPardo describes Fannie’s relationship with her tutor as relatively inadequate, but for complex reasons that go beyond the individual tutor herself. She states: “although Morgan often did an almost heroic job of waiting out Fannie’s lingering silences…she never really surrendered control; somehow, the message always came across that Morgan knew more than Fannie about the ideas at hand, and that if she could, she would simply turn over pre-packaged understandings” (244). To me, DiPardo is saying that the tutor-tutee relationship here was inherently unbalanced: Morgan had this reserve of  “pre-packaged” knowledge that was seen as “right,” or somehow the correct way to go about an assignment. Rather than tailor the session to what Frannie was saying, Morgan would interject her own ideas (a common enough tactic) but the main idea here is that Fannie was not silent because she lacked ideas or the development of them but because of a language barrier and the engrained notion of tutors as having this “reserved” set of standard and accepted knowledge.

Beyond acknowledging that as tutors, we do not hold a wonderful wealth of secret and correct knowledge but rather advice and guidance that can be seen as helpful or not, this section of the article hints at something deeper. While the English language is quite the language–knowing it doesn’t put anyone on a higher plane–and doesn’t register Fannie on a lower one. The drive for bilingual speakers should not be outpaced by the drive for bicultural people, and I admire Fannie’s goals in that she “hoped to one day show her students that it is possible to be both bilingual and bicultural, that one can benefit from exposure to mainstream ways without surrendering one’s own identity” (237). For, truly, language does embody cultural identity–as Professor Hyland can tell you if you take cultural anthropology 😉

I know some people felt Morgan was unfairly tried, and I agree she was not to be blamed as much as the underlying social misconceptions behind tutoring and language-relationships, but what do we think of the Morgan-Fannie relationship?

And how are we to become better “students of the student” in our limited sessions? Or can we within our WC structure?

DiPardo, Anne. “Whispers of Coming and Going”: Lessons from Fannie, The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 2011

To Be, or Not?

By Rachel Gintner - Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 8:59pm

So let’s talk about the realm of the ESL.

The guest speaker from the ESL department that spoke with us today was very enlightening. I think oftentimes in the course of our day we rarely think about the value of knowing the English language.  So when asked if I could write a coherent, readable 10 page paper in Spanish: I immediately answered an emphatic “NO”…I barely have the fluency to hold a five-minute conversation in Spanish, let alone write a lengthy paper in the language.  Our discussion made me realize what a commendable effort is made by the ESL students at St. Norbert, or even  in any school or life stage. Learning a foreign language is hard–and we should not look down upon these students for the progress they have made and have yet to make. (not that anyone looks down upon ESL students, but sometimes I feel there is this negative connotation that they need all this help–when in reality–they are more advanced and proficient in another language than we will ever be!)

Furthermore, it’s a complex thing: trying to aid foreign students in understanding our language, when–to be frank–I don’t always understand it myself. In fact, I rarely understand it myself. When students come in to the writing center I often recognize particular grammar-errors and attempt to explain why they are incorrect, and fall short. Interestingly, I was surprised to learn that the general tutors for the ESL students do not have to undergo any training…who do they get constructive help from, then??? If they are coming to the writing center for it, I am sad to say I am not as well equipped to help them understand grammar rules as our speaker made us out to be.  I do think it’s beneficial for the students to have someone to talk with and practice speaking skills, but shouldn’t their tutors be trained to give them the utmost help? I find it odd…maybe I’m missing something?

Anywho, as I was saying, I understand that the services we provide at the writing center are a step in the right direction: we can connect the students’ formal knowledge of grammar with our more contextual use of certain words or phrases.  Sometimes, I use the silliest examples to explain the difference between singular versus plural nouns and that seems to be memorable…but those are rare occurences.  I fall quite short when it comes to giving reasoning  or origins as to why the English language is constructed the way it is. Consequentially, either we as writing tutors need to go under a more extensive grammar-training, (which I think we’ll be doing soon), or the general tutors for ESL may need to do more than just volunteer.

In the mean time, I found a few of our guest’s tips helpful.  Instead of rambling on and on to try to get my point across to a student, I can speak slowly and be as clear as possible. Pronunciation is key…and having learned some Spanish I can understand where ESL students are coming from when they claim we talk to fast and indistinctly. I also never thought about writing what I was saying down, which may or may not be helpful depending on the point I am trying to make. And now, looking back, I wonder if any of my silly examples were of any help if they were too colloquial or informal. (I hope they were…I tried!)

To sum, how has everyone else’s experience been with ESL students? What approaches do you take when a suggestion you are making isn’t clear? How should we explain grammar-rules when students truly want to understand and not just come to a “fix-it shop”?

A Jumble of Thoughts

By Rachel Gintner - Thursday, November 10, 2011, 7:17pm

These are my thoughts, and they are many; their correlation may not appear so I have dubbed this post a “jumble” due to my scattered-brain.

Concerning mandatory writing center appointments: on the one hand, it is imperative that students who need constructive writing come to the writing center for help. Students who would have never known about the writing center are made aware of us and our mission, and can use the center to their advantage. Albeit, these are the ideal students who are willing to engage in our work. Conversely, there will always be some students who are uncooperative and resistant–however, we cannot cater to these students and dismiss mandatory writing center appointments as a whole.

I would like to make the point, however, that instead of assigning mandatory appointments teachers should consider making them optional yet worth a significant amount of points, perhaps? This way, those who do make an appointment are rewarded for their effort. Although not a perfect solution, those who can use our time effectively at the writing center would be the students we  would work with. Those uncooperative and unwilling to engage would not show up–a plus for us as consultants, yet we would lose the chance of convincing those students that the center can help them regardless of their attitude.

Another consideration: helping students with outlines. For the most part, a lot of my tutoring experience has come in to play with written work, or at least with brainstorming activities. This week I was flooded with a lot of outlines for the same professor. The range I saw, however, surprised me; some outlines were way too vague–filled with summarizing and filler statements based on the conditional “if this had happened or would have happened”–other outlines were extremely detailed–the writer had included complete sentences and tranisitional statements within each section. Moreover, these sessions reminded me of a few things: the importance of drafting and the “stages” of writing, and that outlines are rarely utilized enough by professors.

First off, a few students were intimidated by the outline: they had never had to make one before. As students, we are sometimes programmed to skip all the preliminary stages of writing because the “paper” is the end result and counts as the graded material. In one instance, I helped someone who had an intricate outline and had multiple points for his points for his points, (it seriously went from I. to A. to 1. to i. and so on..) and his thorough methodology was a breath of fresh air: he knew what he was writing about and what he wanted to say within each sentence of his paper. Because of his preliminary work, we could really assess the strength of his topic sentences and how his evidence supported them, as well as his reasoning. It was the ideal appointment.

My last thoughts concern the use of outlines: why don’t students utilize them more? Partially, in my mind, because they are seen as extra work. However, when the effort is made, outlines lead to a logical, coherent, and well-developed essay. I think professors should not only require rough drafts when critiquing students’ work, I think they should rather emphasize the importance of an outline as essential to the paper-making-process.

Any more thoughts on mandatory sessions or utilizing outlines? I’ll admit, I sometimes use outlines, but after a few papers this year I’ve taken to plotting my “plan of attack” down in an outline or two.


The Reader Rules!

By Rachel Gintner - Thursday, November 3, 2011, 5:21pm

I want this blog post to comment on a few things.  Namely, I want to focus on the aim of writing in a readerly sense, followed with the interactive qualities of writing.

 The American Science article by George Gopen and Judith Swan outlines reader’s expectations of a text and emphasizes how important it is for writers to embrace clarity. I found it interesting that the authors claim a work is only as important as it is clear and understandable. Essentially, you can write the most flowery, complex, detailed, fancy paper in the entire world (!) and it will mean squat unless your readers can understand it. I know that this isn’t an unusual idea, but I think few writers sit down and say, “I have to make sure I communicate my ideas effectively.” Albeit, there are a few instances where students ask, “Does this make sense?” but rarely is this question a primary one.

Another interesting argument I drew from the article was the idea that intensive studies which have their own context–science, literary theory, mathematics, what have you–can still be written about in a manner that retains their complexity but conveys the point to the reader in a recognizable way.  The article promotes that not only does clear writing improve reader comprehension, clear writing also elevates the writer’s message: “improving the quality of writing actually improves the quality of thought” (Gopen).  I never actively thought about writing in this way–sure, I knew that the more effort I put into a paper and subsequent revisions, the better the result–but the idea that the very thought or idea is improved by the quality of writing…that was a new articulation about writing for me.

Reiterating the tactic of transitioning from “old to new” topics in writing, Gopen and Swan again stress that the effectiveness of writing depends on the reader…and so our responsibility as writers is to aid the reader in understanding our thought-process.  I particularly like the comparison the article makes, in which starting with invigorating ideas or “beginning with the exciting material and ending with a lack of luster often leaves us disappointed and destroys our sense of momentum. We do not start with the strawberry shortcake and work our way up to the broccoli” (Gopen).  I, myself, detest broccoli, and so we should get the contextual, known information out of the way (the broccoli) and transition from the reader’s previous knowledge to our wonderful insights (strawberry shortcake…yum!). Think about it this way: in order to explain a new idea to someone, or prove a point to someone, you start with what is known and agreed upon before venturing into unknown territory. (this is something we do all the time in tutoring…you start with the basics and build from them)

Finally, I’d like to comment on the video we watched in class on Wednesday that focused on how students perceive teacher’s grading comments on their papers. For one, I especially liked the idea  that “teacher’s comments should provoke or create new ideas, and not end discussion.” (however it was phrased) Writing is an ongoing process. Because the reader’s role is so important, teachers should understand that our hard work as students needs to be reciprocated in detailed and insightful (as well as legible) comments. (I think we all agreed on that point 🙂

What did everyone else think of the article and video?

Gopen, George, Judith Swan. “The Science of Scientific Writing.” American Scientist Nov.-Dec. 1990: Web.

Music to My Ears

By Rachel Gintner - Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 10:32pm

As I’ve probably mentioned before, taking this WAC class and working as a writing center tutor has led me to some insights about writing in general, as well as my own writing, that I had not previously considered. Last week was a particularly writing intensive week for me, and I wanted to be done with writing–I was worn out. It seemed my life revolved around writing: in class, for class, at work, outside work, twas everywhere! And writing is usually such a solitary event anyway so that just makes you feel alone all the time (apart from tutoring) which can be depressing. (and I’m rambling) All I’m trying to say, is, we are such a writing-driven culture that in many ways writing is an inescapable part of life–especially as a college student, and can be alienating. (keep in mind I had a rough week!)

However, my slightly pessimistic view of writing last week had the reverse-effect on my opinion of writing as a whole. Essentially, I started to see why writing was so important to me, and for all of us, after dwelling on the purpose of writing in our lives.

One of my initial attacks was how “inactive” writing can be. By “inactive,” I mean to say that sometimes writing takes on this distance, this…secondary nature.  (it’s difficult to explain) As writers, we are not “doing,” but describing action. Writing involves reflecting on action. The act of writing in itself is an “action,” but within that we are analyzing people and issues and debacles that are outside ourselves–imparting minimal relevance to our everyday lives. Again, this is an extreme view, and only one view of writing, as I saw it at the time.

As this “inactive” view of writing loomed about in my mind, I set down to read Paul Hanstedt’s article “Barbarians at the Gate” for class on Monday. Though I read Hanstedt’s section, I perused the other disciplinary professors’ articles and came to Gordon Marsh’s “Opening Ears and Minds through Writing about Music.” I did not mean to read all the way through the article, but my love of music and piano and the intrigue of a Music course got the best of me.

Gordon Marsh delves into his surprise at the lack of coherent freshman writing (as Hanstedt’s article intimates the  need for a foundational mvmt in stregthening freshman, and overall college, writing) but mainly focuses on a few memorable students who not only improved their writing but realized the importance of music in their lives. In relation to my perception of writing as “inactive,” the article helped me discover something…intellectually-revolutionary. Marsh’s article reminded me that writing is active in that writing causes action; writing generates action through the reader.

Basically, Marsh describes a student, “Amy,” who initially struggled in the course but transformed her view of music after a personal tragedy. As Marsh describes, Amy relays in her paper that she has “a chance encounter on the radio with “Why Georgia” that triggers a catharsis that sets her mourning in motion . . . and thus her healing. As Amy put it, her departed friend now resides in the opening chords of Mayer’s song: his spirit lives on and continues to speak to her through the sound of this music.” Immediately, upon reading Marsh’s words, I whipped out my iPod and scrolled to John Mayer, picked “Why Georgia,” and took a listen myself.

The message I mean to convey here, is that my negative perception of writing last week excluded the reality of how powerful language truly is. Writing may talk about action, and seem inactive, but what is active is our response to writing: not only does our thought-process change, not only do we learn something new, we moreover act based on what we read. When we as readers make that personal connection to the words written on the page, writing becomes transformative. I listened to “Why Georgia” again and again, pondering how music has the power to heal us in ways we never thought possible. I have songs I connect with certain times in my life, I heal through music, music enriches my life–this article reinforced my beliefs, generated new ones, and led me to act differently.

I would like to end my ramblings with a few questions: How do the articles, books, blogs, papers, etc. you read change your thinking? your actions? Opposingly, how do you think the blogs you write, the papers you submit, the writing advice you give, changes the thinking and actions of others? What’s your definition of writing?

Hanstedt, Paul, et. al. “Barbarians at the Gate: Professors from Outside the English Department Reflect on Teaching First-Year Writing.” Pedagogy 9.2 (Spring 2009): 331-36. Project Muse. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.

Going Out on a Limb!

By Rachel Gintner - Saturday, October 22, 2011, 4:17pm

First of all, isn’t “going out on a limb” a wierd phrase? It was the first thing that popped into my mind as I set out to write this draft, and I believe it adequately describes the issue I mean to discuss. Basically, our in-class discussion concerning open-prompts has really got me thinking: are we so constrained to direct, narrow prompts that we as students no longer enjoy writing for the sake of writing?

Initially, during our dialogue, I was of the mindset that an assigned paper should have a clear and specific prompt–how else are students to know what to write? Moreover, we take specifics such as topic, page limit, format, style, etc. as standard knowledge. We need to know every detail otherwise panic erupts (for some, not all…I’m generalizing). I understand that for many course papers structure is necessary–however, I think it’s interesting that so many people are quick to judge the open prompt and dismiss it as a waste of time, or even label it as too difficult (aren’t these papers meant to challenge us? not that we always enjoy the challenge…). Again, perhaps our discomfort with open prompts stems from its unfamiliarity as well as its generally indirect nature.

The argument was made during class that an open-prompt does have its time and place, as long as it relates in some manner to the course or course material. I agree with this qualification–yet I think there is something liberating and unique about the limitless nature of open-ended writing. As previously stated, I’m going out on a limb here, but I often feel as though the prompts I am given in class are mundane: their main purpose is to assess how well we have obtained knowledge, granted–but direct prompts can be repetitious and limiting and boring and shouldn’t learning also be about bringing new ideas and perspectives to education?

Intriguingly, in the article written by John Penington and Robert Boyer, students and faculty claim that one of the most important attributes of St. Norbert College are our “self-educating students” (90). The article also references, on page 88, the importance of resolving paradox in writing, implying that as a writing community on campus we are not only meant to preserve knowledge (conservativism) but to generate new knowledge (radicalism). In other words, part of our education system should orient students to develop their own perception of knowledge, while acquiring established knowledge. Pertaining to open-prompts, I believe new forms of writing should be encouraged that do not solely tailor to conservatism.

Recently, I was given an open prompt for a midterm that seemed like a joke–were we really to draw and write and scribble in sketch books for our previously assumed essay-oriented midterm? Apparently! But the fact of the matter is, I was able to apply my own thoughts and ideas while incorporating learned knowledge–and I never had a more invigorating or exciting midterm in my life.

I know I’m arguing something testy and uncomfortable here, but I think we should incoroporate open prompts into our education system more–for many reasons. They’re new! and actually can be exciting, while at the same time challenging. Also, for more conservative learners, they offer a unique way of presenting knowledge while still allowing the student to express their views.

What do the rest of you think? How should be approach open-prompts in the classroom? Hannah, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but what did you think of our Art midterm?  (tis all!)

Pennington, John, and Robert Boyer. “A Reflective Strategy for Writing Across the Curriculum: Situating WAC as a Moral and Civic Duty.” The WAC Journal. 87-100. Web

Changing the Way I Write

By Rachel Gintner - Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 4:56pm

After pondering over the blogs we have read and the Stephen Fry video we watched for Monday, I came to a few conclusions.  Never before have I thought so much about my own writing, or cared to–I love seeing what other people have to say, but sometimes I balk at the idea of people looking at my own work. So I wondered: why do I hesitate to show others my writing? or cringe at the thought of them reading it out loud?

Some of the realizations I came to are that, basically, I am a perfectionist–my own worst critic–and judge my writing too harshly. On the other hand, I think Stephen Fry’s argument that we as a culture don’t really “bubble and froth and drool…etc.” at language explains another reasoning: we are more worried about getting the right words written down than we are about exploring language.  Even now as I’m writing I hesitate, edit, go back, rearrange–which seems fine, but in reality I should be expressing my thoughts as they come and then go back and revise. Somehow, these blogs take sooo much longer to write, probably because I struggle and wonder: is this right?

What (or who) constitutes what is “right” anyway? I particularly liked the section in the blog (why i’m not proud of you for correcting other people’s grammar) where the author says, “Adhering to grammar guidelines is about making sure that you are understood. It’s also about self-presentation, but it’s not about adhering to some sort of moral code.” Essentially, we have some ideas about how writing should work, but these “guidelines” are not the same as rules. Even when the author mentions:  “No one descended from a mountain with two stone tablets reading, ‘Though shalt not use a preposition at the end of a sentence,'” and I thought, isn’t that an established rule? Why was I always taught that prepositions shouldn’t be at the end of sentences, if someone somewhere didn’t make that rule? I’m pretty sure during one of my appointments I even suggested to a student that he/she shouldn’t put prepositions at the end of a sentence because it sounded awkward (or something like that). I have been engrained from little on that, as a writer, there is a right way to write and a wrong way to write.

I have to get a move on and go to our wonderful 5:00 class, but I’m curious: are there any rules you all as writers have been taught that you frequently “break”? How have you changed your writing after coming to college or having a certain class? After helping students with their writing, do you see ways to improve your own?