Sunday, September 16, 2007

More than just a grader...

My approach to ICON is from a Document Instructor’s point of view. When I first learned that I would be a Document Instructor, I figured it was more like just grading than actual instructing. However, since I’ve actually begun to grade papers, I have a different outlook on my job. I am doing more than just slapping a grade on a paper. I have the opportunity to help my students learn through their mistakes. Maybe I am an optimist, but I guess a part of me wants to believe that the student looks at my commentary and works through his or her mistakes. I take the time to do more than just point out errors. I try to show them how to fix their mistakes. I also want to explain the reason behind the rules. Instead of just writing “comma here” or something, I try to explain the purpose and logic behind the comma. I think it helps them learn how to write correctly for future papers.

In this way, I think I am a part of the facilitators on ICON. Within our grading group, we have the opportunity to work together to communicate with students. We work with our CIs, so that we are on the same level with our standards for grading as well as what parts of the assignment we want to emphasize. Our purpose is not necessarily to make our jobs easier. Instead, we’re trying to be consistent with the students, so that they get the best learning opportunity they can.

I worked in the writing center during my undergrad at Angelo State. As a result, I feel prepared or equipped to be a DI this semester. At the writing center, we looked at each student’s paper with them. We only had a limited amount of time to help the student, so we started with the most important elements first. In our writing center, we called it “global” issues and “local” issues. We were trained to completely ignore “local” issues (i.e. grammar, syntax, mechanics, etc) until the “global” issues were correct or at least on track. Global issues can range from organization and structure to if the paper meets the objectives of the assignment in general. Basically, we looked at content above all: what the student wrote, rather than how they wrote it.

I think what we do in ICON is similar. We can only spend so much time on a paper. The key is to hit the most important elements. I try to help the students with the global issues as well as the local issues. The logic behind this type of approach is that a student can only take in so much information at once. The idea is to help the student with the big stuff at first. As his or her writing progresses, then the instructor can begin to help with the smaller stuff. What makes this easier in a writing center and harder on ICON is the difference in the number of students. At least for now, it’s hard to know each of the students I’m grading for beyond just a student ID number. So, in some ways, I have to help with the small stuff and the big stuff at once. However, the principle still works in terms of the student’s growth in writing between now and the end of the semester.

I believe the students will have an equal opportunity to grow in their writing this semester. I also believe that each of my students can succeed in becoming a better writer. I truly hope that I will be proud to see that type of growth across the board as the semester ends. Maybe I am being extremely optimistic. =)
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