I know I have written about assessment a bit too much–imagining a way of assessing our writing programs through what our students say about what they have learned in our writing programs rather than having them “prove” (or argue) what they have learned by their writing performance in, let’s say, school (trying to be polite here) writing situations. Key is that we’re evaluating our programs more directly than by asking students to perform in an artificially constructed rhetorical situation (unless we argue that teaching students how to argue for a grade is the kind of genre–and social dynamic–that we want to teach). I will say, somewhat selfishly (and in keeping with my four rules of good writing assignments), that it’s more fun to read what student feed back to me what they have learned (or not learned) in our writing courses than it is to read essays in which students are arguing for a grade.
I’m imagining the same kind of dynamic–a direct evaluation–of students’ learning experiences in our university. I think we can learn a lot by listening seriously to our students, through their writing, rather than by asking them to prove something to us through school writing.
At any rate, at the end of the last quarter, I asked the students to write about their first-year experience at Drexel–with some focus on what they may or may not have learned in our writing program. I’ve posted their essays over on the right of this blog: “Students Essays Describing First Year at Drexel.” These essays were actually addressed to an Associate Vice Provost at Drexel who came into our class to talk to us about her interest in learning about students’ experiences, but I also told the students that I would be posting these essays for other teachers to read.
I’m not going to say these are great essays–we do very little revising and rewriting in my classes–and, quite a shift for me, no peer response activities. We just read what others write and write back to each other. Still, I find their essays very interesting. I know we can learn a lot from our students by seriously listening to them–and what better way to listen to them then by paying attention to what they tell us in writing.
On the right side is also a link to a book my LSU students wrote–“Writing Ourselves into Each Other’s Lives.” They wrote that for other teachers to read, so I hope some of you will look at it. If you want to use any of the chapters, feel free to link to the book or copy the chapters. Let me point to the chapter on “Voice.” My students always like reading that one. Another favorite is “Journals.” And many of the essays in the last half of the book are, to me, startling.