The first article I’d like to address is Haswell’s “Minimal Marking.” At first glance (and maybe probably at second and third glance) I’m drawn toward this pragmatic approach of strongly hinting at problem areas instead of fixing them pre-emptively. I especially find the active participation on the student end beneficial toward improved writing. This method would seem to promote the values and tools of revision, demanding that the student take another closer look at the writing.
However, thinking on the purely practical level of my students’ papers, I could realistically perform this exercise with maybe about a third of the students’ papers, the other two thirds of the papers would have too many marks, causing more confusion than there already is when it comes to conventions and grammar. A way to avoid this, and still follow Haswell’s advice might be to triage the more egregious problem areas, and address them with the marks. Any thoughts on this?
In other news, Elbow contributes an expectedly sanguine and level-headed article promoting his views of how incorporate ranking, evaluation, and liking into judging student writing. The upsides of Elbow’s contributions are at the same time the downsides. They require a dismantling of the accepted approach, a deconstruction of generic end comments and grading. Although Elbow does lay out a formidable game plan for how to develop evaluation based grading (using honorable and unsatisfactory as the two ranking devices when necessary, and writing personally directed evaluations for the other assignments), I wonder how effective this method would prove in larger institutions where students appear one day and disappear into the institution the next. My initial thought would be that this model would function great in institutions like Evergreen State College where the whole institution has a process oriented approach. But then again, Elbow drops enough science for some of it to stick as universally helpful. His evaluation rubric, eg, is brilliant. Reading these articles I reflected on my own writing and how it was affected/effected by the grading process. During my undergraduate years I wrote an essay for a creative nonfiction class in which I looked back through all my various report cards and went a bit overboard trying to argue for grades as a commodity fetish. I got this essay back without a grade or even comments. I ended up getting a C in the class, which leads me to believe I got a D on that essay. Overall, I rarely saw a connection between the writing, the grade, and the grader’s comments.
Elbow’s suggestions, as well as Smith’s, seem like good places to begin at least
trying to tie these together.