Veronica 9/14/13: Maybe I need to review whether the reflective report (in which I mark the language as well as content/task achievement) should in fact be part of the student’s SDL grade. In favour is the fact that the report is usually an enlightening (for the student) overall reflection on the process/outcomes of his/her SDL and hence a valuable task. But something still bugs me about it!
Your question (in Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13) re when to mark language in student writing forces us to address a tough issue. There aren’t any easy answers — except “It all depends,” which isn’t an answer at all.
It’s especially relevant in the online learning environment where communication style is critical. For example, Which set of standards should we use? Should there be just one standard across the range of onground and online platforms? If we use different standards for online, What are they for communications in social media? When we take the broader perspective of rhetoric, which taps all the means of persuasion that’s readily available to writer and reader, What role should multimedia technology play? and, perhaps more importantly, How do we evaluate its use in student artifacts?
As a writing teacher, I find myself increasingly questioning the role of traditional documentation (APA, MLA, Chicago) style in online digital writing. Much of the rules seems irrelevant with the advent of digital media and URL links. And it doesn’t stop there.
I do know that the whole idea of readability has been radically altered by the new rhetoric of online social engagement and that traditional formal academic prose is going the way of landlines — at least in the real world of virtual communications.
So the whole notion of marking papers may be changing, and one of the new indices for readability may be the idea of “hits,” i.e., How often is an artifact read or viewed? How do readers rate it? and How extensive and dynamic is the attached discussion among readers and author?
In this scenario, the teacher as sole evaluator is replaced by the concept of real world audience, and the ultimate test of correctness may be reader response. But this may create disconnects. For example, a work receives a top grade from a teacher, but no one or only a handful view it. Another work receives a mediocre grade but goes viral online as much for the content as the style. Which is the more effective? Or, more important, How should we define effectiveness?
When the potential feedback is the world rather than a single teacher, I think we need to rethink the role of teacher in the writing process. For example, her/his task may be to explore and establish the most useful platforms for facilitating audience feedback on student works and guiding students in interpreting the results and exploring implications. In this role, the teacher becomes a coach, guide, consultant, advisor, and her task is defined as much by her knowledge of the student as her mastery of the new rhetoric with an emphasis on audience response.
In addition, her job doesn’t end there. She is further tasked with the need to empower students so that they leave the course with the the ability to independently understand and use reader feedback to guide their own writing development.
Online isn’t just a bunch of new technology but whole new sets of challenges that force us to reexamine our roles as teacher.