Responding to Papers: Ways that Work.

PUBLISHED: Jul 6, 2018

In This Episode.

Many educators are frustrated by student writing, frustrated by the time they devote to responding to student writing, and frustrated by the lack of revision, if not improvement, between drafts.  In this episode, Dave and Steve not only dispel myths about what constitutes an effective response to a student paper, they also offer a step-by-step process for responding in a way that produces meaningful growth.

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Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we bring you research driven solutions to critical thinking education. Why? Because as Bertrand Russell said, most people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do so. And now your hosts Steve Pearlman and Dave Carillo.

Steve Pearlman: Hey, welcome back to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast. This is Steve

Dave Carillo: And I am Dave. That was well done. We’re trying to we’re going to try to speak more slowly, and I noticed that you started out more quickly and then slowed down, and that was good. So.

Steve Pearlman: So really, this is a compliment embedded in a criticism for me.

Dave Carillo: I just an observation

Steve Pearlman: Is really all it is. We realized in our last podcast that because we got a little excited about what we were talking about, perhaps the pace at which we were speaking was perhaps a little too quick.

Dave Carillo: We get excited been that can just speed things up to the point where no one can really understand what we’re saying.

Steve Pearlman: We’re not saying that if we slow down will be more comprehensible to anybody but ourselves. But this is true. I guess. We are over seven thousand five hundred listeners now on the podcast, which is really exciting. So thanks to everyone who’s been listening, and we hope you’ll continue to support the podcast most by recommending it to your colleagues and by also giving us high ratings on iTunes or wherever else you might be listening to the podcast.

Dave Carillo: We would very much appreciate some high ratings.

Steve Pearlman: Today, we’re talking about how to respond to writing, and this is a sort of our wheelhouse and a lot of respect because we’re both oppositionists by trade initially at least. And secondly, because this is certainly one of the areas where we get some of the most questions from faculty, where faculty seem most confounded in terms of how to respond to writing in ways that actually produce change in what the students are doing right.

Dave Carillo: Most faculty we work with see value in assigning writing, but they’re walking a tightrope between valuing, writing and watching all their free time slip away. Commenting on that writing, providing feedback and then seeing drafts two, three and four not really change as much as they would want or they expected it would. So there’s this ongoing frustration, even as they stick with writing as a major part of their class of the class work. But it’s tough. It’s tough for them to to put all that work in and then not see the kind of intellectual improvement that they would want, the outcomes that they’re looking for.

Steve Pearlman: And I think one of the things that I found, certainly that we want to compliment faculty about is that most faculty respond in great earnest to student writing, and they take the responding to student writing very seriously, and they spend a lot of time doing it. And maybe one of the great benefits of this podcast is we’re going to actually show you how to spend less time responding to student writing potentially than you’re already doing right while getting more bang for your buck out of that time in terms of what actually produces change in the next draft that the students write. And this is absolutely critical because so many faculty are gratified to learn that whatever time they’re spending can be maximized or that they’ve actually been spending more time than they need to responding to writing. And it hasn’t necessarily panned out, and there are other ways to approach it that might be more economical. Of course, this is a generalization because we don’t know how long our average listener is spending. Sure, in responding to writing, and maybe this is going to take you a little more time. But what we can assure you is that whatever we’re offering you here is going to offer you ways to respond to writing that at least do produce better result relative to most of the common practice that we see. Let me give you a quick example, and then we’ll move into, I think, a grander vision of this all of the time that everybody spends working in the margins in terms of student writing, which could be considerable for a lot of faculty writing notes along the paper all the way and so forth.

Steve Pearlman: Most of that really doesn’t pay off. If it pays off, it pays off on the most low scale level we can imagine, which is that you might mark a particular sentence and say, I’m not sure about what you’re saying in here or something to that effect at a particular point in the paper or you put a little clarifying note or what have you in the margins and what the research generally supports is that what students will go do is they will look at that isolated sentence in their text and they will make a change to that sentence such that they reworded or address the immediate concern that you listed at that very moment in the paper and not really do anything with the paper that’s more substantive. And that’s just one example of how time can be saved because the time spent in the margins for the most part, and this is a general. Causation is typically not time that pays off in any large scale way in terms of the student paper, and we strongly recommend as faculty might be filling up margins of their papers as they’re responding to them that you ease off from that, we’re going to give you some other ways to approach it that might be more useful.

Dave Carillo: I’m glad you brought up marginalia first because I think that’s one of the most common things you see faculty do in your in your right. Basically, the research that we have tells us that that’s not doing the kind of thing that we hope it is, and it’s good you brought that up first and foremost because it speaks to this sort of this idea of resistance that I wanted to frame part of this discussion because I’ve got this great article by Richard Haswell. The article is called The Complexities of responding to student writing or looking for shortcuts via the road of excess. And I’m going to quote this again later on in the podcast. But he has this great moment halfway through where he talks about some of the challenges to providing feedback and how they stem from this idea of identity and resistance in students. And so I just wanted to read this for our listeners to see whether you’ve experienced any of this, Haswell says quote. Students are reluctant to change their rhetorically inept ways because their old ways have stood them academically. Insufficient studied second language specialists call this error resistance because they don’t like the image of themselves as in apps. He goes on to say, quote Students resist the marginal question because it’s not an answer.

Dave Carillo: The corrective commentary because it’s depressing the pithy teacher efficient mark because it lacks explanation. The lengthy end comment because it seems too critical in generalized the recommendations for improvement to removed from their current habits because it seems too risky. The critique from peers because it comes from novices, the critique from teachers, because it comes from an instructor they sense, hold a marginal or tenuous academic position. They resist not only for such questionable reasons, but also for a good one because they are more and more seeing themselves as independent and ultimately free to use language as they wish. They resist because they are students, and I think that just a great sort of little passage that really sort of sums up a lot of the kinds of problems or the sort of challenges we’ve had. Responding to student writing and that’s why I’m glad we’re doing this. We need to respond to student writing. There needs to be a discussion on this. We need to be doing more than just saying you’ve missed 10 to commas. You get a C-plus until you get all your commas in place. But how do you do that? That’s always been. That’s always been a challenge. So let’s let’s jump into a little bit of what you were going to start with.

Steve Pearlman: The first thing we want to do here is to establish a couple of ground rules. The first ground rule, and we’re not going to talk about this a lot today because it’s what we generally harp on is the need to have a grading standard that the students can understand that we can introduce to the students so that they have a sense of what it is that you’re looking for. Prior to submitting the assignment, because otherwise it’s sort of a gotcha game. Even with the best of intentions that we give an assignment to the students, if they don’t really know how it’s going to be assessed, it’s very hard for them to write in such a way that’s directed towards that assessment.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, we’re not going to harp on it, but we do talk about it a lot because it is so valuable and to go back to a one more time, and I’m going to read more from this section later, but to quote as well, and he’s talking specifically about feedback here. But this applies. The problems lie not so much with students or with teachers, but with the interaction between them. Some of the most disturbing investigation into response seems to show that students and teachers operate under very different evaluative sets, and that’s a great way of thinking about the point that you brought up, which is if students and teachers aren’t operating on the same plane, it’ll be gotcha. Even with the best intentions, no feedback, no matter what you’re doing to improve your response to student writing is going to help. So Rule one,

Steve Pearlman: Rule one, Rule one. Try to have an assessment standard that the students are familiar with and can understand. You can always look at what we recommend at the Critical Thinking Initiative Board, which really gives primacy to critical thinking. Yes, but you’re in a different place, and if you want to use something different, the principle remains the same in terms of the importance of that. So we’re moving off of that second work from higher order to lower order concerns. And what we mean by that is start with those matters and emphasize those matters that will have the biggest bang for their buck with respect to the paper and what it’s accomplishing. Typically, these are the highest critical. Banking concerns right in the paper, but if you have a paper that’s just a brilliant piece start to finish and the very highest order concern that’s remaining in the paper is that the student has comma splices, then only talk about the comma splices. But generally speaking, that’s not the problems that we’re running into with the student work. That’s not where the students are struggling. And instead we recommend and we typically find that you’ve got to start at the high critical thinking areas. Three less is more. Students get overwhelmed by the amount of response that they often get from faculty members with comments in the margins, with comments at the end talking about a litany of different issues in the paper. And these are done with the best of intentions from the faculty member. It’s also it’s so time consuming sometimes about returning to writing. It’s the best of intentions from the faculty member. But the students facing this litany of things about their paper mix of good and bad even don’t even know what it is that they need to focus on moving out of that.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, and that third rule actually informs the second rule because when faced with just a mountain of comments, if the higher order concerns are just mixed in willy nilly with any other kind of concern when it comes down to it, you know this actually, this does remind me of the cognitive load theory a little bit that we talked about last week. The student is going to focus on those comments that they know they can handle the easiest and the quickest, and you’ll see if you’re not providing that high level to low level and the paper is just awash in comments. You’ll have students and other research proves it’s out. You’ll have students dealing with the surface level sentence level issues that you that you mark up and not in any way, shape or form, contending with the more complex, more important issues that you might point to in paper.

Steve Pearlman: So now in hearing, the less is better than more theory. One of the most frequently asked questions is but don’t I need to talk to them about the many different aspects of their paper that I’m processing? Yeah, and there are two reasons why you don’t and shouldn’t. In fact, the first reason is that, as we said, they’re overwhelmed by it, so they are not going to be able to know to what to respond. Regardless of your intentions to cover a number of different aspects of the paper, they are just going to still be confused. Their their cognitive load is going to be overloaded. They’re not going to know what to focus on and for proof of that pudding. And this is a self efficacy question here. But ask yourself if you’re thrilled with the change in your student work from one draft to the next. And if you are thrilled in the change of your student work from one draft to the next, then you’re you are on start. Continue on your merry way. We don’t know what you’re doing and whatever it is, it’s working for you and that’s great. But if you’re not thrilled with it, then we would consider the fact that maybe there’s another way to approach it. And the second reason is that many of the other lower order concerns will come along for the ride as you start to address the higher order. Yeah, now

Dave Carillo: That’s that is a leap of faith that we find a lot of faculty have to make. But that’s the case and what research there is on that does bear that out as well.

Steve Pearlman: Because think about it, you might talk to the student about their organization as well as their analysis, as well as their sentence transitioning, as well as their sentence clarity. Well, so much of that actually relies first on the extent to which the student is clear in terms of what they might be doing analytically or insert higher order critical thinking element here as they become clearer on that higher order concern. Their capacity to organize the paper and articulate it come along for the ride. It’s not going to magically fix the fact that they’ve never figured out how to use a semicolon, but it is going to bring a lot of the lower order concerns along with it as you address the higher order concerns. So for those two reasons, you’re not losing anything. If you’re able to really successfully get students to focus on the key higher order concern of the work, final ground rule is this don’t feel the need to praise or and certainly don’t mitigate. And here’s why students don’t need to hear that you think they’re wonderful at the start of the paper? I’m not suggesting in any way that you need to be critical right off the bat, but merely praising the student is not been shown to be statistically correlated with growth in the student work, so the students understand they’re going to get some feedback on their paper. They understand that it is probably not a perfect paper. They will be open to receiving that feedback and in no way should ever be abusive or anything to that extent. I’m just saying the mere act of offering praise is not necessarily accomplishing anything and as it’s mitigated, it actually be. Problematic, so mitigated the response, and I’m quoting from Nelson and shown here might be something like great work, but I had some trouble finding your thesis. Well, think about what a contradictory message that is for the student to receive, right?

Dave Carillo: Well, I mean, you know, in the same sentence you’re saying this is great work and also troubling work, right? And what is the student going to do with that? Either they’re going to disregard the praise because you had trouble finding your thesis or they’re going to make the assumption that it might be better just to keep the thesis the way it is, even though it did cause some trouble because overall, the work was great.

Steve Pearlman: Your praise is either disingenuous or my thesis is good enough. Right, exactly. But it can’t be both. So praising, especially unless it is that super a paper that you’ve been hoping to receive praising often goes awry in the contradictory message that it sends to students, which is not again an advocacy of being hypercritical. It’s just saying let the lavishing of praise for its sake or the mitigation of critical comment doesn’t need to happen. Now I want to. I just want to footnote this really quickly. There is mounting evidence for something called error feedback. I’ve heard that. Yeah, and we’ll talk about this in a future episode, and it’s been something that I’ve been focusing on in my response to students. And I do want to discuss it, but not today, which is that focusing on negative aspects of the paper don’t necessarily produce as much change as only focusing on the most positive or the closest things that you want students to do to successful. But that’s not the same as praising. I want to be clear about that, and it’s something we’ll come back to later on.

Dave Carillo: Ok, well, that’s the four ground rules for ground rules. Ok, perfect. All right. So let’s jump in. You’ve got an array of papers spread out in front of your desk. So let’s jump into that and I’m going to do that by saying, Well, if we’re not going to start our comment off with praise, Steve, what ought we start our comments off with that might be more productive for the student intellectually?

Steve Pearlman: Thanks for that question, Dave. I really appreciate it. It’s almost like you had no idea where I was going next and you just came out with this thing that just

Dave Carillo: Happened to hit the market. It totally organic question. I did not know what was coming next at all.

Steve Pearlman: Well, you’re a sharp lad. If I may say a sharp

Dave Carillo: Lad, I would want that on a T-shirt as well. A sharp, sharp lad, maybe in quotations and then just have that out of context. I got to start writing my T-shirt ideas down. Continue. What would we start with, Steve?

Steve Pearlman: What we recommend to faculty what we’ve seen great work with and I want to credit a couple of other authors. There are so many on this. Yeah, there are some good ones today. Specifically, I’m drawing from Nelson and Sean in two thousand nine percent in 2011. We certainly don’t want people think all of this just comes out of us organically here. The critical thinking initiative think tank. But what we’ve seen great success with with faculty members in terms of their response and what we have seen real change in student writing resulting from is a three step process that simplifies how to respond to student paper into a more concise and focused manner that gives students something to on which to go and do their following work and do their revision. And it seems to be very effective. So the three step process that I’m identifying here for you is summarize, localize and solve, summarize, localize and solve. And these are the three things you need to do to get more change out of your student work from draft to draft. First step is in a non-judgmental way. Just summarize what the student is up to. This is just a few sentences to a paragraph that says, Here’s what I see you doing in your paper. Here are the points I see you making. Here’s what I see you attempting to argue and don’t say it’s good or bad. I say Here’s what I generally see that this paper is doing, and what that seems to show students is that you read their work, you took it seriously, and that at least that you got their perspective. You got somewhat of what they are trying to do. And that’s a respectful but also intellectually ingenuous way to approach the student.

Dave Carillo: Initially, one of the things that we do talk to faculty about in terms of this, this first step is that it works counter to the way a lot of students have received feedback and perceive feedback as this sort of piecemeal deconstruction of their paper based on isolated moments of error or random comments as the as their teachers are reading. Or at this point and they have this question and they move on and then they have this question, but now they’re offering criticism here. And like I said, it’s it runs counter to a lot of what students perceive as as what feedback is.

Steve Pearlman: It does, and it’s in a sense it’s it’s like an. You’re listening gesture. Yeah, when you’re trying to establish a good dialogue with somebody, or maybe perhaps you’re even in an argument and students might perceive the paper submission and response process somewhat adversarial by nature. Definitely. This is an active listening gesture. This is saying I have heard you, I’ve heard what you had to say, and I respect the work that you put into this, not by saying I respect it just by recognizing and letting the student know that you read it and you can articulate what you see them doing in the work. So that’s rule one is summarize or step one is summarize. Step two is localize. So now you take your higher order issue, you figure out whatever that is. What’s the thing that if they could do this better would have the greatest impact on this paper? What’s the highest order skill that if they integrated better throughout the work, would produce the best next draft and would bring along with it the most lower order skills that they’re doing? So whether it’s whatever that term is that you are floating around your head for that particular assignment, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, whatever it might be, questioning evidence doesn’t matter. Find one instance in that paper to which you can refer specifically, that demonstrates the presence or absence of that higher order skill or something in between might exist to a certain degree and reference it and say the most pressing aspect of this paper that I want you to consider working with is as follows, and the best example of it I can give is here.

Steve Pearlman: You might just reference the paragraphs. You don’t have to quote the entire paragraph, but definitely use very specific language from that passage. As specific as that language can be integrating one or two of the student’s own terms or a phrase here or there. Again, that’s respectful gesture to the student and talk specifically about what’s going on in that particular passage and how it relates to the higher order concern that you’re talking about. What exactly do you see going on there relative to the higher order concern? Where do you see it breaking down to a varying degree? Now the student has instead of an abstract notion of the idea that, well, I just have to analyze better. They can look at a piece of their paper, part of their paper and see what you’re seeing in terms of what is or is not happening in that particular moment. So it’s real. It’s contextualized to their specific work. It’s not just an abstract term, it’s not referenced in the sample work. It’s again about their specific work, their specific writing, their specific thinking. Yeah.

Dave Carillo: And I think, Steve, what you’re saying is is really important overall to not only this idea of providing stronger feedback, but to the student as well, is that you’re finding the moment that will allow them to go back into their work. So, for instance, if they’re not evaluating any of their sources and you can point to a specific source and tell them, here’s what you’re doing with this source. Here’s what ought to be doing, or you should be doing by finding the moment that allows the student to go back into their own work and engage it more deeply than those surface level or sentence level issues that we briefly mentioned earlier. You’re going to be providing them with the best opportunity to become a stronger writer and thinker, or a stronger analyze or source interpreter or whatever you want your student to be. But there is a learning curve with that. It might take some time to become really good at finding the moment that’s going to work best. But then once you get beyond that learning curve, you’re commenting on an entire paper using a key moment and suddenly, like a single paragraph at that point is going to do so much more for the student than any sort of lengthy and comment any sort of ongoing discussion throughout the paper.

Steve Pearlman: I like your point a lot about give it a little time, give it a little practice. Yeah, there’s a knack to that. Like there is anything else. And finding those key moments, those representative moments is takes a little practice at first. So one summarize to localize. Three Solve and what we mean by solve and what students often never get. In fact, if there’s probably something students get, at least in response to their writing, it’s a solution, a specific solution. The first reason don’t get that specific solution is because they don’t get a localized example of the problem in their paper makes sense. But the second is that then we just don’t go on to offer them a specific solution. And here’s what we mean by a solution. Refer back to that moment in the paper that you had localized to whatever degree it’s successful or unsuccessful or struggling, and offer what would look better. So something that one might say to a student is if I had written or if I could recommend a revision of those of that passage, it would look like this and then go on to actually rewrite that passage at least a few sentences that gives a direction for the students as to what they could do with that idea, what they could do with that. Source. What they could do in terms of higher order thinking in that moment, that represents ultimately what you’re hoping to see them do, and the problem is they just don’t ever see that,

Dave Carillo: Steve, I got going to interrupt here. Ok, I want to interrupt.

Steve Pearlman: The interruption is done,

Dave Carillo: And I’m going to ask you another organic question that just sprang to my mind rather than mine in any way, knowing what we might have wanted to talk about today. What would you say to the individual who interrupts you and argues that I shouldn’t be giving them the answers? Why should I give them the answer? Shouldn’t they be figuring out the answer? Or shouldn’t they be figuring out how to strengthen their writing? Why is this solution one of the things that you’re offering for better feedback?

Steve Pearlman: That’s a great question. Dave, thank you very much. Spontaneously generating absolutely organically. And it is a good question, and it is the question we get asked a lot. There are a couple of different answers to it. The basic answer is unless we do it, they don’t know what it is. We want them to do in the specificity. They only try to figure it out and sort of an abstract way and problem solving. The other thing is you’re not rewriting the entire paper for them. You’re taking a small moment in the paper. You’re showing them how that could look. If they engaged in the higher order work in which you want them to engage, then it’s up to them to take that and run with it throughout the rest of their paper to find those other moments and move on. And I would footnote here that I tell my students they’re not allowed to use my specific sentences or just sort of patch them up in their own way and put them back into their text. They have to do it in their own way. But it’s up to them to then extrapolate that and use it and apply it more ubiquitously throughout the text.

Steve Pearlman: And that’s hard enough for them to do without a solution. And it’s very empowering for them when they see that they have the capacity to do it or they really see a clear path forward, which is what they typically don’t get. I’d like all the listeners to think about the fact that in most other subject matter students receive from the faculty member a specific answer to that question. What was the answer? It’s a test they can go. What was the answer to this question on the test instead? In writing, we so seldom offer students a specific solution to the very problem or the challenge that they’re facing in their own writing in a localized, specific fashion. And this is advocating that we do that. You’re just offering an example. Here’s what in this moment that could have looked like, there are 14 other moments in the text that need to accomplish the same thing. I’ve held your hand a little bit. I’ve given you a sense of what to do. We’ve talked about this now. It’s up to you to take it

Dave Carillo: And go further, right? And I like how you’re talking about this idea that, well, here’s this one moment there are 14 other moments and I mentioned that earlier, but I can’t stress that enough. These three rules for stronger feedback are geared toward getting students to engage their work intellectually beyond that first draft. And if you can at least get them to re-enter their thought process, even if it’s just for the seven of the 14 other moments, even if you start to see just a third of the new draft starting to improve it in the ways that you ask in terms of those high level ways you’re pushing the student beyond where a lot of them have been. Make that leap of faith. Ask the student to go back into their own world. Don’t just pepper the paper with comment and moment after moment, giving them the opportunity to start to become a stronger reader and thinker of their own work.

Steve Pearlman: Well, we also find from that is that students, as Dave saying, being able to have an intellectual doorway back into their work, which typically they don’t get students concerns about the grade or at least their gripes about the grades go down because you’re able to say this is the most important aspect of your work, and here’s the way it’s playing out. And from that point, I should footnote if at the end I say them almost as a P.S. you want to mention, by the way, I have trouble following some of your transitions or or what have you any other, the lower order comments students are much more apt to hear them, but I only do them in a sentence because what I’m saying to them is I really care about your intellectual capacity. I really care about these higher order concerns. But by the way, pay attention to how to use a comma to. I don’t want to be distracted by that as I’m engaged in your higher order thinking, which is the most important thing, then the students also have something that’s very specific in material in terms of why your grade is where your grade is.

Steve Pearlman: Because you’re able to say this aspect of your work is carrying the highest load for the entire paper, and I’m showing you a very specific example of where it is and how you can make it better. Furthermore, how students approach doing that work in the draft that follows offers an excellent platform for being able to continue the dialogue. So if? You say to students, listen, I showed you that there was this challenge going on in your work and I showed you where it was, I showed you how to resolve it, and I see that you made no effort to go and address any other moments in your work to resolve that. That’s why your grade has not changed at all between these two drafts. Now you understand, or you’re able to say to them, I see that you made a great effort on this in a number of different places, and that’s why your grade has changed. Either way, there’s a material anchor in the paper to what happens in terms of the grade and the following draft.

Dave Carillo: So to bookend this conversation with Haswell, and I want to get back to that quotation that I started about how teachers and students interact. And it’s this idea of interaction or this idea of dialogue, this further idea of dialogue and interaction. I don’t want to bring to the table about feedback here as well, says some of the most disturbing investigation into response seems to show that students and teachers operate under very different evaluative sets, whether it is due to age. And here he’s quoting Evans and then O’Neill and Fife, whether it is due to age, gender experience, expertise, social position or classroom dynamics, students and teachers tend to consume writing quite differently. They have trouble speaking the same language of response because their responses to writing itself are so far apart. Students tend to read to comprehend teachers to judge. That’s from gear of nineteen seventy seven. I said I was going to do this, but now I’m going to, I suppose, students interpret detail. Realistically, teachers emblematic and literarily that’s whole and rows. Students prefer an orally produced style teacher’s a professionally written style. Students think of writing as a maze or an obligation over which they have no control teachers as an activity creatively in the hands of the writer. Students look on writing options as right or wrong, or else an endless shelf of choices with no way to choose teachers as rhetorical choices leading to the best strategy students take.

Dave Carillo: A first interpretation is the only one teachers as a first position to be revised upon consideration of other interpretations, students place the most importance on vocabulary teachers on substance. He goes on, but I think he makes the point pretty clear that there are a set of assumptions that a lot of teachers work on in terms of how students are reading their writing, reading other writing and reading your feedback on their writing. And these are assumptions that are not necessarily founded in any sort of researcher fact. And in fact, what Haswell is saying here is is what we’ve been saying and elsewhere in terms of having this clear and explicit way of defining critical thinking and assessing critical thinking. But it follows through to anything that you want them to get out of the classroom, which is we can assume that students see what we see. We can’t assume that they’re reading the way we’re reading and the best way to strengthen those three rules for feedback. Summary Localize installed is to make your own reading clear. So what I would suggest is the fourth guideline for strong feedback is to provide feedback on a paper in front of your class model, what you’re looking for, what you might localize, how you might try to summarize and do that with an ongoing commentary for your students.

Dave Carillo: Hey, you know, this is what I want to see from you right now. I’m reading this draft and here’s what I’m looking at, and here’s what I’m localizing. And now, when I found my spot, I found this spot because this spot is representative of Spots two, three and four and five. But this one is the best one because the student is doing this and I see them doing this, but they could be doing those other things. Make sure that this interaction between you and your students in terms of how you’re responding to writing is made explicit for them before they get the first set of comments back. Let them know how you’re reading their work. Let them know why you’re reading it, the way you’re reading it, let them know what you’re valuing and how you’re valuing, and then make sure that you’re defining those terms. Do it for your students in front of your students. Make them entirely aware of you as the reader. This is what I’m valuing. This is why I’m valuing. This is how we’re going to value it in this class.

Steve Pearlman: I love that point because really so much of communication is so deeply contextualized, right? And it’s essential that we recognize as educators that every time students step into a new class, all previous context is gone. We might hope that some continues from the previous classes. Some does, but sometimes, yeah. But for the most part, they’re in a new context. And the context for that communication, about writing, about standards, about what is intellectual work, about what is intellectually valued and so on needs to be formed. And without that context, without a common ground, it’s impossible. And if you think about the people with whom you can have the deepest conversations about intellectual subject matter are people with whom you have a common. Text for understanding terminology and a perspective that makes that able to happen, these are things that happen over time. So I love what Hezbollah’s saying here. I love your point because the depth of that context is seldom given any time to establish yeah, by any intentional effort from faculty members. Right.

Dave Carillo: And I would just want to sort of double down on the fact that any time that you might have to bracket in the class to do this kind of work, it’s going to pay off.

Steve Pearlman: And at the end, with a shameless plug. Yes, the Critical Thing Initiative Handbook for faculty and students establishes that common context for intellectual work and discussion, and the new addition is just about to come out and get a discount on a pre-order right now, if you go to the website. But otherwise, we want to say thanks again for listening to the podcast, and we hope this was helpful in terms of responding to writing.

Dave Carillo: Thank you very much, everyone.

Voiceover: This episode of the Critical Thinking Initiative is brought to you by the Critical Thinking Initiative. Org Visit the Critical Thinking Initiative for an ever expanding resource of books, syllabi, videos and other resources on critical thinking. The Critical Thinking Initiative is always seeking out other people in education who want to work towards raising critical thinking outcomes locally and nationally.


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