can be informally tested: with comprehension questions (prepared by instructor or students), in interviews between groups, by comparing written recalls of the source text. Students who simply paraphrased may be able to answer factual questions correctly but be unable to recall the author's main idea or purpose and will probably not have noticed problems or inconsistencies in the author's argument. Students who wrote analyses should be better able to answer questions about the author's point of view or the type of evidence used in the argument. It is important to point out, of course, that these essentially quantitative measures of learning are limited. Class discussion can encourage students to think about what other kinds of learning are demonstrated in essays such as Ned's or Ruth's.
Activities such as these, which enable students to examine the complex interaction of writing and learning firsthand, help them to discover that writers make choices and that these choices have consequences -- not just for the quality of their writing but for the quality of their learning as well. If we can help students develop this awareness and learn to choose among alternatives, we will have helped them develop strategies for learning beyond our writing classrooms.
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