Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plans for Collaboration

Thomas and I have discussed having our ENA101 students* exchange feedback on essay drafts via Facebook. (We chose Facebook due to ease of setup and our students' likely familiarity with the platform.) Our students would write with their counterparts in the other section in mind, thereby fostering a more authentic sense of audience. For years, I've nagged my students to imagine they were writing for someone who hasn't read the original text. As such, they have to provide adequate context throughout the essay, and to avoid making assumptions about the reader's level of background knowledge. Unsurprisingly, this was a difficult concept for my students to grasp and enact, given the artificiality of the rhetorical situation. After all, we all knew the primary reader (me) was exceedingly familiar with the text. By exchanging drafts with peers in the other class, our students can experience the challenge of writing for a genuine stranger--a far more rhetorically authentic activity. Moreover, students would also receive practice giving revision-directed feedback, which certainly helps to improve one's own critical reading and writing skills.

*These students are taking Composition I but haven't yet passed the CUNY Assessment Test in Writing (CATW). These students receive 7 hours of instructional time a week--four hours with "regular" Composition students  and three additional hours of additional support and CATW-prep time. This is a relatively new program at LaGuardia, but early results have been extremely positive in terms of pass rates and retention.




  2. Irwin - I feel its an excellent use of the technology, the community, and the pedagogy. Having students provide feedback, instead of only engaging in the process of receiving it, is a method that provides flexible thought and opens new avenues for interpretation and evaluation that might not otherwise exist.

    How do you plan to evaluate what is considered appropriate feedback from peer to peer?

  3. I agree that it can be incredibly difficult to get students to understand the concept of writing for an audience unfamiliar with the original text. Using technology to connect your students to another class places students in the position of actually writing for this type of audience, as opposed to just pretending to do it. I think this is a great example of using technology for a real purpose- not just using it for the sake of using it.

    Will you provide students the opportunity to discuss their experiences (reactions, comfort levels, opinions on the "usefulness" of the activity, etc) after they engage in the activity?

  4. As you know I SO know what you mean. "Inventing" an audience is an advanced skill. As is providing feedback that is reader-based (as opposed to criterion-based, when students so often mimic their version of "teacher commentary." I think an exciting challenge will be how the platform of FB influences feedback!