Saturday, January 13th, 2007

The Surprising Process of Writing



Amelia, a university sophomore, scores a 60 on her first academic paper. On her second she scores a 60 again. On her third paper, she pulls up to an 80 — mostly due to extensive rewrites. Yet on her midterm and final, she received an astounding 90 and 85. Not only was her paragraph structure and use of quotations significantly better, but her ability to sequence ideas and support claims had taken a leap. Even her mechanics (grammar, sentence structure and punctuation) had improved.

I’d like to say that these two high scores came at the end of the semester; this would prove what an effective instructor I was. Instead, they came at odd times — the first A came just after the second paper (which scored a D). The solid B paper did come at the end of the semester. The difference was in how the papers were produced. Both the 90 and 85 papers were handwritten in-class timed essays that constituted the midterm and final. The much lower scores were for computer-generated papers that she produced out of class. These, of course, could be rewritten over and over before the due dates.

Shari Wilson writes at Inside Higher Ed.

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