I found a few of this week’s readings really impactful and edifying, especially Haswell’s Minimal Marking and Elbow’s Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment. I think I *might* disagree with Heather—if I’m reading her correctly—re: Haswell’s technique, and would like to correct my own behavior when I’m responding and “grading” students’ low stakes writing assignments. So far, I’ve written in and corrected all those irksome grammatical “common usage” errors (its vs. it’s) and after exhausting myself doing so have little time left over to leave meaningful comments on student work. The worst part is, of course, that the errors do not seem to be going away. I know we’ve discussed some “anxiety” issues in class and I feel strongly about not producing this feeling in students; however, I’m going to contradict myself here because I feel as though the minimal marking method could be a positive type of “anxiety”—problem solving—that might benefit more students than not in the long run. There is something to be said about inculcating a sense of self-correction in them, which I believe Haswell’s method could do at least, as he notes, for the majority of students (all those graphs and data are somewhat comforting, right?) Does anyone disagree with or see the value in Haswell’s claim that “It [minimal marking] shows the student that the teacher initially assume[s] that carelessness and not stupidity [is] the source of error.” And could this be a way of asking students to create that atmosphere of accountability/responsibility we discussed last week? Also, I find the idea that it brings out the wound in a way, as Haswell also claims on page 603: “It is remarkable how often the method winnows away a heterogeneous clutter of threshold errors to leave just a few conceptual errors—errors…now accessible for focused treatment.” Wouldn’t giving students the task of finding their mistakes help them focus their energies on true, deep areas that need improvement, therefore somehow easing any anxiety they have about their writing?
I think that Elbow might be in support of this as well—or at least maybe amenable to it. I can’t help but read into his idea of evaluation as bring simpatico with minimal marking; they both, I think, “make distinctions between parts or features or criteria” in student writing (Elbow 188). Both authors put some amount of power back into the students’ hands rather than have them rely, or over rely, on the instructor who is nothing more than a kind of captain or maybe occasion to improve.
I know I risk sounding too idealistic, but I do feel strongly that grades are harmful to learning more often than not. Grading fits into, I think, a typical American pathos (of “Ranking” as Elbow says). I’m excited to talk about how other people feel about this—there’s a reason we’ve all been eager to discuss it!