Hearing Ourselves Think: Cognitive Research in the College Writing Classroom

By Barbara M. Sitko; Ann M. Penrose | Go to book overview
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volume), and even take charge of her affective response to writing (McLeod, in press).

On that same day in class, we exchanged papers with our neighbors. This exercise was designed to let us hear our papers read to see if the points which I tried to emphasize sounded as strong coming from another person. Jay read my paper to me first. It was so interesting to hear another person read through my paper. You can see that sometimes the points which you thought were so clearly made were not so clear at all. I could tell from hearing him read my paper that it did not flow together as well as it should have. Listening to this reading proved to be very helpful when it came time to revise my paper. Reading my partner's paper was interesting too. Although the exercise was not supposed to be one for corrections, he often became frustrated with me when I did not clearly emphasize his points. I am sure that we both benefited from listening and reading to one another.

The next day, I went to have a conference with my teacher regarding any revisions that I needed to make. I had her read my paper to me to see if the points which Jay had previously emphasized would be similar. She was very helpful in letting me realize for myself the corrections which needed to be made. I found that I needed more examples to back up my statements. We even made a little adjustment in my thesis statement. Upon leaving the conference, I felt much better about my work and how I was going to revise it.

When the day finally came for me to hand in my three-page final draft, I was ready. I felt that I had learned a lot about how to use the readings assigned in class and incorporate them into a paper. I also felt relieved and accomplished. Those are two of my very favorite feelings.

Throughout this chapter, we have heard students thinking about feedback and making decisions about revising their work. Although the focus of each student's attention is quite different (stylistic awkwardness, statements of purpose and key points, rhetorical arrangement, and whole text reading), their problem-solving and decision-making processes are remarkably similar. Teachers who understand how students represent problems, strategize about their choices, and test the outcomes of their choices can take advantage of these processes by guiding students through comments or in conference. But more important to the purpose of this chapter, students themselves can easily "listen in on" their own processes and, in discussion with teachers and classmates, come to accept not only a broader concept of reading and writing but also a wider representation of the range of their own options. As we see in the last excerpt, some students take the difficult step of pushing beyond their previous limits, construct new ways of testing their texts, celebrate their accomplishments and integrate these new ways of thinking into their own repertoires. Isn't such learning what teaching is all about?

Portions of these materials are included in Sitko ( 1992) and appear with permission. This article describes two studies of revising after feedback.


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