Student Reviews Reflection (Pre-Semester)

Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner

Bloom's Remembering: What did I do?
As far as students, and my goals for them and what I would like to read in their reviews is that I listen to them, I provide plenty of feedback about their writing and that I taught them relevant skills that they will take to their other courses. I try to meet these goals by covering common writing problems, teaching them a fool-proof essay structure, providing many readings and discussions to get them to think about the world outside the class and only make them wait 1 week or less for essay grades so that they are able to use the feedback I provide in their next assignment. I also write a paragraph of feedback at the end of each essay summarizing what all my comments suggest throughout the essay. Additionally, I sit with each and every student and discuss their writing. I think this makes the most lasting impression; this practice also helps me remember their stories. I try to make them feel comfortable around me by talking to them as friends (after all, we are all adults).

Bloom's Understanding: What was important about what I did? Did I meet my goals?
I think a writing class is unique because sharing a creative work, like writing, requires a level of trust between the writer and reader. For students, there is always a level of anxiety about sharing their work with the instructor (the expert). If I establish an atmosphere of trust from day 1, students are able to more easily share, and most importantly, ask questions about their writing. When a student asks me questions about their writing, I know we have hit a certain level of trust between us that allowed them to reach out for guidance from me.

Bloom's Application: When did I do this before? Where could I use this again?
I learned this immediately when I worked as a writing tutor as an undergraduate. I saw how anxious these student writers were about their writing. They did not want to appear unintelligent or helpless, but they did need help. I tried to set them at ease with humor or finding something that worked about their writing. Once they felt comfortable sitting next to me, they were more likely to receive guidance. Also, when I would share a 5 paragraph essay model, it was such a relief to them. They immediately felt they had something with which to work.

Bloom's Analysis: Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did?
Yes, I do see patterns. I have typically provided lots of feedback to my writing students throughout my career.

Bloom's Evaluation: How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?
The student reviews were overwhelmingly positive; but they were also a bit empty: comments like, “the best teacher” don’t really speak to me about specifics.
I’m concerned that I am too helpful. A past colleague told me that my students couldn’t write well, and I wondered if my students relied too heavily on my feedback to make their writing choices. I also had many students return to my office once they moved onto another writing course; that is proof that perhaps I made them rely too heavily on my support instead of providing the tools they needed.  I recently read this article by Pappas, and this article by Andrew Miller, and as an educator, I was convicted to find ways in which I make students more responsible for their learning. I also read this blog post by English teacher Jennifer Roberts, and her honest reflections struck a chord with me about this issue.

Bloom's Creation: What should I do next? What's my plan / design?
I need to read more about strategies that will make my students more autonomous. I still want to be available and approachable to my students. I want to be a source of guidance, but I want them to be able to be inspired by resources they discover on their own as well.
I think the reflective writing that accompanies the e-portfolio will be useful in this. The reflections ask students to discover patterns on their own. In addition, I made some changes to the “Writing Help” tab on their e-portfolio. Instead of resources that I pasted there, I left that up to them. I’m thinking of requiring this as a grade, and then have them present in groups about the resources they found and how it helped their writing. We shall see.

*My reflection strategy is inspired by Peter Pappas' blog, Copy/Paste.