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Haswell: "Minimal Marking"--ADV Set 22


Via Brittany McWilliams
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Start here:  this is the full text of Richard Haswell's groundbreaking article in College English in 1983, explaining minimal marking, how it works, why it matters. 

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The Learning Record

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M.A. Syverson offers one of the best articles I've read on variations of minimal marking:  he suggests marking off a section of a student's paper, say a paragraph or two or even a whole page, focusing on writing errors only in that section.  Syverson's variation works beautifully on Blackboard in the reply function:  you can copy and paste a paragraph, explore quickly and thoroughly important errors and proposed revisions, and ask students to do the same with another paragraph in a draft.  This method also helps balance ESL students' concerns about grammatical correctness with the limits of our time and energy for providing exhaustive feedback.  More essential reading!

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Barbara Pittman's comment, January 18, 2013 2:15 PM
I kind of naturally came to that kind of sectioning, maybe out of a desperation that if I commented on the whole paper, there was too much redundancy, and the whole of it would just be overwhelming. The idea of saying "look here at what's happening; now go and look for those and other things in the rest of the draft," although hard to do at first, was good for me and an acknowledgement that I trusted students to do it. That letting go of the control over the student's paper can be a hard first step to take for people trained to write seriously and well.
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Minimal Marking

Minimal marking is a strategy for grading papers the includes the student as an active partner in the grading process and uses the professor's time efficiently.
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This YouTube video provides a quick introduction to two methods of minimal marking, along with a rationale for using minimal marking and a demonstration of how it works. 

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feedback_in_online_courses.pdf

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Catherine Savini from Westfield State University in MA addresses concerns writing faculty have about teaching online and offers tips for responding to student work in online composition courses. Of particular interest are her suggestions to save and then copy and paste feedback on problems students habitually have [apparently students don’t see this as “canned”], to sign feedback comments just as if you were writing a letter, to connect feedback to other writing students have done or will do in the course [we assume students see connections when in fact they don't], and to make more use of students’ papers to show them what they are doing right [such as a good paragraph as opposed to one that needs revision].

 

Savini's document is a good introduction to teaching writing online both for first-time and experienced instructors. 

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Responding to Student Papers | Wright State University

Responding to Student Papers | Wright State University | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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From the Writing Center at Wright State University, here are links for responding to student writing directed toward faculty involved in Writing Across the Curriculum.  Note the suggestion that time might be better spent in conferences with students on rough drafts rather than on commenting on rough drafts, and see especially the link on What Students Want You to Know about Marking Papers, based on an article by Mary Dossin originally published in the Composition Chronicle in 1992.

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"The Rhetoric of Paper-Marking"

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In "The Rhetoric of Paper-Marking or A Wheelbarrow for Sisyphus" (you gotta love that title!), Ray Smith, director of the Campus Writing Program at Indiana University, Bloomington, argues that less is more when responding to student writing and includes a link to a pdf of student paper he has marked minimally (but helpfully--see for yourself). 

 

As Smith notes in his introduction, “Teaching, which is almost always done in the presence of others, is paradoxically a rather private act. Usually, we write lectures, frame discussions, prepare readings, and construct tests without consultation. No part of teaching, however, is more private than paper-grading.” 

 

The larger question, of course, is whether this should be the case.  Would we do a better job of grading papers if it were less private? 

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SNL Writing / Responding to Student Writing

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From the DePaul University School for New Learning, a series of short articles on responding to student writing, updated in 2012:

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Minimal Marking, An Oldie But Goodie ← Abraham Romney

Minimal Marking, An Oldie But Goodie ← Abraham Romney | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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In this blog post from his role as writing center director at UC-Irvine, Abraham Romney describes still another variation of minimal marking based on a presentation by Jonathan Alexander--brief marginal comments, end comments with praise and two to three suggestions for improvement.  Romney seconds Haswell's argument that when we spend too much time marking errors, we don't encourage students to learn from their mistakes and become frustrated at their seeming resistance to applying our feedback.

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Barbara Pittman's comment, January 18, 2013 2:10 PM
Even though I stopped that kind of marking long ago, I find that red-pen-edited page beautiful in its own way. Unfortunately, I was teaching myself about writing with my marks, not the students.
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MINIMAL MARKING

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An article from the Illinois Wesleyan University writing center, this post suggests ways to follow up on minimal marking through small-group and other collaborative work, conferences with students, and so on--all of them practical and worthwhile.

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Minimal Marking: A Humane and Practical Approach | Classroom Talk

Minimal Marking: A Humane and Practical Approach | Classroom Talk | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
published a paper entitled “Minimal Marking” [College English 45 (6):600-604] that outlines a system of the same name. It's a great alternative to correcting every little mistake that appears in a student's paper.
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Wells explains how minimal marking encourages students to engage more deeply with their writing and suggests ways to include collaborative learning as a follow up to minimal marking. 

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Sustainable Teaching Fail | Inside Higher Ed

Sustainable Teaching Fail | Inside Higher Ed | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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In "Sustainable Teaching Fail," blogger Lee Skallerup-Bessette addresses the difficulties of teaching writing when you have too many students and too many papers to grade to provide the ideal personalized, engaging writing assignments and feedback to the same.  Although her blog, College-Ready Writing, focuses on her teaching off the tenure track, the reality is that teaching composition for tenured and tenure-track faculty is also time consuming.  We are ALL haunted by the gap between what we'd like to do and what our energies and other commitments allow us to do. 

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Barbara Pittman's comment, March 28, 2013 10:11 AM
it's funny what readers "hear" in the same article, because I hear her fear of being able to continue her living if she doesn't get a contract and the domino effect that would proceed from that. I can understand how the fear of being able to pay your bills would creep into your consciousness and negatively affect your work. The discussion of avoiding best practices seemed like a side note to me.
Barbara Pittman's comment, March 28, 2013 10:15 AM
I might also add that many of her reasons for frustration are some of the same reasons why I stopped teaching as an adjunct, even though I really need the money, as little as it is. of course I know people teaching non-writing courses online who do far less work for the same money, but I picked a different path.
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Haswell, The Complexities of Responding

Haswell, The Complexities of Responding | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
A Journal of Language, Learning, and Academic Writing
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In this 2006 article, Haswell updates and expands upon how minimal marking can be used to the benefit of faculty and students alike.  He offers new variations on minimal marking and explains how short conferences with students provide more useable feedback to them and less stress for faculty.  Haswell also reviews research on methods of providing feedback and their efficacy (or lack thereof, in most cases), the value of positive feedback, and so on.  This article is essential reading for everyone who teaches composition at the college level.

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Barbara Pittman's comment, January 18, 2013 2:08 PM
Wow, that's a hefty piece of writing, but writing teachers take the work seriously, even if they are frazzled and overworked.
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How to Get ESL Students to Accept Your Minimal Marking

Richard Haswell (1983) advocated a system of minimal marking and his approach could have two main benefits. Minimal marking can help teachers avoid wasting time on vague comments and marks that are ultimately ignored, and it can help ...
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Explains why ESL students might resist minimal marking and how to help them understand its value--essential reading.

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13WaysRespondingDougHesse.pdf

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The original version of Doug Hesse's "13 Ways of Responding to Student Writing" is no longer available at the University of Denver website.  Here is an earlier version of the document from Temple University.

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The link to Doug Hesse's "13 Ways of Responding to Student Writing" is no longer available at this scoop but it another position on this page.

PHardman's insight:

Although Doug Hess is widely known for his important longitudinal study of student writers at the University of Denver, here he addresses the basics of providing feedback on student writing.  Initially, I was going to suggest that you just focus on his first six tips, but they're all so good that I recommend you save this file and print multiple copies--one for your office wall, one for your home office wall, one for the dashboard of your car. . .

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Barbara Pittman's comment, January 29, 2013 3:28 PM
I strongly recommend #11, the cover memo. I often find my students' best writing in these documents, I suppose because the subject matter of writing has been so hard-earned that it is personal. I tell them in advance that these are often my favorite pieces of writing, so they know that I look forward to reading their self-analyses, and I think that helps them to write at their best. I give them a list of what to write about in advance, and I suggest that they take notes about the composing process as they put their papers together so that they can remember what happened and how they fixed it or even how it all went wrong. Sometimes the stories "how I tried to revise and it turned into a worse paper" are really revealing, both to me and to them.
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Marking a First Draft

Marking a First Draft | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
If you allow unlimited revisions, the first draft is the entry point into a dialogue between you and your student.  It is the beginning, not the entirety, of a conversation that may progress over s...
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Inspired by Anne Lamott's Writing Bird by Bird, the author of the blog Shitty First Drafts advises writing faculty focus on no more than three issues on any given draft and provides a "hierarchy of concerns" we should address, beginning with the larger conceptual matters.  As she writes, “Any problems at the conceptualization level usually indicate that major overhaul is necessary, so beating grammatical issues to death is only going to waste your time and overwhelm the student.”

 

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Time-Saving Strategies for Evaluating Student Writing : College of Liberal Arts : Texas State University

Time-Saving Strategies for Evaluating Student Writing : College of Liberal Arts : Texas State University | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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Rebecca Jackson offers a series of practical suggestions, including such gems as that some research (Bean, for example) finds that students benefit more from extensive feedback on model papers in class rather than feedback on their own papers, that asking questions might be better than offering directive comments (“Why do you think this is true?”), and that feedback/comments should be offered on rough drafts, not on final drafts that will not be revised

 

Money quote:  the epigraph from Nancy Sommers: 

 

"Most teachers estimate that it takes them at least twenty to forty minutes to comment on an individual student paper, and those twenty to forty minutes times [the number of students in a class] adds up to an enormous amount of time."

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Minimal Marking | The Illustrated Professor

Minimal Marking | The Illustrated Professor | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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See Laurence Musgrove's blog, The Illustrated Professor, if you get tired of using checkmarks for minimal marking and would like to try something more adventurous.

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Reducing Paper Evaluation Time

Reducing Paper Evaluation Time | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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Rick Dollieslager, chair of the English dept. at Thomas Nelson CC in Virginia, explains how English faculty can save time grading papers without sacrificing quality of feedback and includes links to other sources, including Mina Shaughnessy's work on responding to students' errors. The title speaks for itself!

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Assessment and feedback practices to reduce turnaround time


Via Brittany McWilliams
PHardman's insight:

In addition to covering the usual ways to reduce feedback time, Puntha discusses the pros and cons of using audiofeedback.  See also the link to her article “Assessment and feedback design to manage turnaround time,” which suggests limiting the types of assessments [assigning two analysis papers, for example], developing a bank of standard responses that can be copied and pasted, giving students rubrics to check their own work, etc.

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Minimal marking makes students better at grammar, journalism prof ...

Minimal marking makes students better at grammar, journalism prof ... | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
The minimal-marking project she and three colleagues conducted in the School of Journalism throughout 2012 resulted in significantly higher grammar test scores in two first-year classes of minimally-marked students when ...
PHardman's insight:

As the title suggests, the research cited in this article demonstrates the value of minimal marking for journalism students.  Students in the sections where instructors used minimal marking to identify their grammatical problems earned higher grades and produced fewer surface errors than students in the control sections.  As one instructor notes, however, minimal marking doesn't necessarily mean less work for the instructor because students still need follow-up help identifying and correcting their mistakes.  This is a valuable source for writing instructors showing the value of minimal marking in other related disciplines.

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College Misery: Early Thirsty: How We Grade.

College Misery: Early Thirsty: How We Grade. | Minimal Marking in College Comp Courses | Scoop.it
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This blog post from the site College Misery addresses the “joys” of grading student papers and ways to help make the process more bearable.  In between the gripes are some useful suggestions for handling the paper grading load and some comic relief as well.  Don’t miss the comments!

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