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Responding to Student Writing: The Student Perspective

The following list of observations comes from Mary Dossin, who compiled these in her work as a writing specialist in the Claude J. Clark Learning Center at SUNY in Plattsburgh, New York, and published her findings in an article published in Composition Chronicle. While none of these observations is too surprising, they do tell us something about the relationship we enter into when we respond to student writing, regardless of our course or discipline, and for that reason alone you might find them useful.

  • What students appreciate most is the opportunity to rewrite their papers after they have been marked or discussed.
  • Students respond well when instructors demonstrate in their comments that they have made a real effort to understand the student’s point and message.
  • Students want comments they can understand and are irritated by indecipherable handwriting and obscure jargon and abbreviations.
  • Students respond well when standards are clear.
  • Students are most frustrated by papers that are returned with only a grade.
  • Students complain most about professors who make only negative comments on their papers and don’t tell them what they have done well. They also need to be told what they have done well so they can continue doing it.
  • Students resent what they perceive as condescension and sarcastic humor.
  • Finally, students like to receive their papers back as quickly as possible, certainly before the next writing assignment is due.

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