I was intrigued by Nancy Sommers’ article comparing revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers. She found that student writers were mostly concerned with substituting different words when revising papers, so that the goal of the process is to “clean up speech (47),” whereas experienced writers seem to think in broader terms and are more concerned with reimagining the meaning of what they’ve written – a piecemeal versus a holistic approach. Student writers thus seem to be primarily interested in fixing something that’s broken; whether it’s a Band-aid solution or an ace bandage tactic probably depends on the student’s initial skill set and fluency level.
The problem as I see it is this: Sommers states (and I agree) that “These revision strategies are teacher-based, directed towards a teacher-reader who expects compliance with rules” – presumably having to do with Harvey’s Academic Elements, developing a strong thesis statement, structure, grammar, etc. Writing is a process. Learning to write more persuasively and interestingly, (i.e., revision, the art of re-seeing one’s work with a fresh perspective) is a process, too. But where in this picture is “a sense of writing as discovery (53)?” How can we get students to engage with their own academic writing beyond the fact that in ENG 110 revision is part of the curriculum and hopefully a way of improving one’s grade?
Coincidentally, the next article I read was Christyne Berzsenyi’s “Comments to Comments.” Again, I agree with her main premise – writing is about making choices and most of the time, “students are not typically required to articulate a rationale for their choices or offer an explanation, defense, justification and reconsideration of those choices (71).” I like the idea of responding to feedback in a dialogue format. (Is this a variation on Kerry Walk’s letter writing)? And I like the notion of a “rich and focused discussion (73),” rather than merely praising and/or offering critical suggestions in the margins and in the end comments. “Feedback,” Berzsenyi states, “should strive to invigorate students’ inquiry (74).” Agreed. Yet how does one go about being less directive while still trying to keep certain guidelines in mind? Is there a way to focus on the choices students make without having an actual dialogue on the page? To stress fundamentals while encouraging student writing to be as expressive and as interesting as possible?
I’m curious to hear other people’s reactions to her dialogic revision strategy. Is it too time consuming? Is it unnecessary? Do you think it would work?