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. =)


Anonymous said...

I like your discussion of "local" vs. "global" issues. At times I have a bit of difficulty trying to decide which I want to discuss more in students' papers, the global or the local. There are papers that are easy to grade and comment on, and then there are papers that I just sit back and think to myself..."ok, where do I begin?" Thinking in the terms that you present will help me with my comments.

I also like that you focus on what the student writes instead of how they write it. As you know from past exercises in class, grammar is important to me, but so is style and content. Finding a balance between the two is important to me.

You sound quite optimistic concerning your students and their papers, and I like your attitude toward grading. It's nice to hear that there are some other DIs that are positive in their critiques of students' work, and are hoping for the best when it comes to the students in Eng1301.

Ryan said...

I found your discussion of grading to be highly uplifting and far more optomistic than my own. I found myself agreeing with you, though. There are lots of way that DIs can affect change inside of a student's writing. I only hope that we as DIs are able to completely cover all the bases that have been laid of for us.

I also found it suprising about what you learned inside of your writing center because when I worked at my writing center we had almost the same ideas about grading papers. That really made me start to wonder if there is some general graders essay or handbook that both of our writing centers were following. I do like the idea of addressing "global issues" first. I think this both allows the student to feel good that we as instructors are giving thought to what they are thinking and allowing ourselves the flexibility of addressing larger issues before focusing in on the smaller ones. It remainded me of this commercial in Korea about this couple that tried to pick their wall colors before their house was built. It didn't turn out very well for them.

Anyway, I've drifted off topic a little, but I'd like to reiterate that I was inspired by your little chat and would like to focus on aspects beyond basic grading.

Sharba said...

I share your enthusiasm over my responsibilities as a DI. Like you, I hope to be a positive influence on their work. Also, I see the advantages that the ICON offers as a platform of sharing. However, I have not yet got over my initial discomfort of grading faceless papers. I consider one-on-one interaction a valuable component of the mentoring process. I am also uncomfortable with the way the ICON system of grading tends to encourage a product-based approach to writing. We evaluate a paper (the final product) and not the process.

Since you have the work experience of Writing Centers, maybe you could tell me whether or not face-to face interaction makes any substantial difference to our reading and understanding of student papers?