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Comments on: Oi! Stop complaining about student writing http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/ "A man needn't go far to find a subject, if he's ready with his salt-box."--Uncle Pumblechook Wed, 14 May 2014 19:32:14 +0000 hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 By: Jason http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/comment-page-1/#comment-10310 Fri, 16 May 2008 18:44:10 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/#comment-10310 @Roy That’s actually a good point, and reminds me that part of the problem was that students felt impelled to “write like a lawyer,” and stopped trusting what got them there.

@Dance History and English may be too close. But I’ve *definitely* seen students assert that they didn’t think grammar or style mattered on, say, a lab report, or even research papers in relatively quantitative fields.

To be honest, though, my real complaint here is with folks from other departments who feel no compunction about running down students’ writing as “something they weren’t taught earlier”–as if they have no responsibility.

@Chuck and Mike: I don’t mind saying I hate *grading*, though I like reading student work. “Grading” has a bit of an assembly-line feel, especially when you have 100 students in a semester. But this week I’ve also gotten several papers from students just looking for more feedback, and I’m very happy to enagage with them. (*Next* week . . . after grades are due!)

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By: Roy Jacobsen http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/comment-page-1/#comment-10307 Fri, 16 May 2008 01:54:06 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/#comment-10307 I’m a bit concerned about those students who were told to “write like a lawyer.” IMO, that’s just about the worst thing you can tell them.

The sad fact is that lawyers don’t NEED to write like lawyers; Plain English is as legally binding as legalese.

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By: Dance http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/comment-page-1/#comment-10301 Thu, 15 May 2008 19:56:37 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/#comment-10301 I’m not quite buying the non-transferable thing—I can see being baffled by being asked to write like a lawyer, certainly, but I don’t see how that bafflement could override notions like “when you make a claim, you need to present evidence to support it.” I feel as though a lot of the complaints I see focus on things that could be solved with fairly basic editing and attention to pretty fundamental skills about how words and sentences should be put together.

I’ve read papers where I thought “oh, very nice command of language, but totally not doing what this paper needs to do”, but I don’t complain about those students as “bad writers”, I complain about students who ignored the assignment.

Perhaps our fault as faculty may be that we make writing seem too idiosyncratic, and don’t emphasize certain common rules enough, so that students fail to realize they do transfer to other classes. But I’m skeptical of the notion that the rule “apostrophes should be used for possessives and contractions” suddenly vanishes when students are asked to write in History rather than English. Maybe the students never actually learned that rule, and just learned by rote and repetition that “Author’s Text” requires a little blob in the right place.

Now, when I see a complaint “oh this student is such a bad writer”, followed by a list of typos and grammatical errors that Word’s spellcheck would have caught, yeah, I think that prof has totally missed the point about what bad writing is.

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By: Chuck http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/comment-page-1/#comment-10290 Thu, 15 May 2008 14:36:24 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/#comment-10290 This is a very helpful explanation for why students seem to struggle with certain writing assignments. Like you, I’ve graded student writing at several universities (five, if I remember correctly), and I’ve tried to account for struggles with certain assignments. This year, for example, my students very clearly struggled with a rhetorical analysis assignment, something that I found surprising (students at other universities had been comfortable with that assignment). Like you, I find the constant complaining about student writing–especially in public venues like blogs and Facebook–unproductive.

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By: Mike Shapiro http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/comment-page-1/#comment-10276 Thu, 15 May 2008 03:33:29 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2008/05/14/oi-stop-complaining-about-student-writing/#comment-10276 Thank you for this reminder, jbj, esp. as regards fluctuations in perceived fluency when writers encounter new genres for the first time. (I wince whenever I recall the personal statement that somehow didn’t disqualify me from grad school.)

I would add that there is a new dimension to this as well: colleagues of mine will occasionally complain about writing, or at least grading, on Facebook and in other public venues. If we tell our students that we dislike reading their work, should we be surprised when they display similar enthusiasm when it comes to writing it?

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