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Do your writing assignment focus on the product or the process? How about your students? Where do you think their focus is?
At the end of the day, our students aren’t going to take from our courses the products they developed and use them in the future. But they certainly will use and refine the skills they needed to develop that product—as they move on to other courses and well into their respective fields.
When working with online instructors, I found that many will de-emphasize the writing process. They tend to assign a major project or a final paper and all eyes are on the end goal of where students need to ultimately get. But they don’t oftentimes spend a whole lot of time breaking that process down in the same way that they might in a face-to-face class.
Below you’ll find a self-assessment to help you step back and reflect on how you approach writing assignments. It can serve as a helpful reminder of the various steps along the writing journey and how you can help guide students along that path.
Questions for Self-assessment
Do you consider who your students are and their background for the course prior to developing writing assessments?
Do you teach the writing process in your course?
Do you teach students how to modify the steps of the writing process to play to their individual strengths or learning styles?
Do you remind students of the importance of writing process within each assessment and include specific recommendations for each step of that process?
Do you offer multiple means of assessment for non-drafting steps even though the ultimate product will be written?
When do you allow student writers to see the rubric or overview of how the assignment will be evaluated and scored after the final draft is submitted? Is it early enough in the writing process to offer guidance without impeding creativity?
Is the rubric or other evaluation tool framed in a positive way to emphasize student strengths and possibility for growth in each area?
Have you offered a checklist for minimum requirements with ideal standards included to offer students an additional checkpoint to evaluate their own work and adjust it if necessary before sharing their writing with others?
Do you offer students opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction during the prewriting or revision stages?
Do you offer preliminary feedback during various stages of the writing process in order to identify students who may be getting off track and to support them in their writing process?
Do you remain engaged during the drafting phase of the writing process so that writers do not work in complete isolation and are encouraged to pace themselves?
Do you offer clear and specific suggestions for how writers can get editing support?
Do you link or embed external sites that may support writers during the editing process?
After reading a set of drafts, do you offer collective feedback through News or email so that students can gauge their progress according to the class’s progress and benefit from affirmation and correction of others’ general strengths and weaknesses?
Do you ever offer such collective feedback in the form of a video or audio clip to enhance instructor presence in the online writing classroom?
Do you offer a self-evaluation of writing assignments in quiz form so that students are encouraged to remedy any lingering editing issues and meet any unfulfilled assignment requirements prior to submitting their final draft?
Do you provide feedback in a timely-enough manner so that writers can incorporate your response in the following assignment?
For more on writing assignments, read Writing Assignments: A Self-Evaluation for Students.Deidre Price, PhD, is the Interim Director of Learning Technologies at Northwest Florida State College. Since 2003 she has served as professor of English at NWFSC, where she teaches online and hybrid writing courses. Reprinted from the supplemental materials for Effective Writing Assessment in the Online Classroom, an online seminar from Magna Publications, 2017.