Student Difficulties

To address the collective concern about students’ writing abilities across the disciplines, the Writing Program has provided some resources and readings to help teach, assign, and grade student writing. These readings range in length and depth, so summaries are provided for quick access.


 Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference
Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

  • Introduction to Kerschbaum’s book
  • While looking at markers of difference to understand why someone does/doesn’t talk in a classroom is important, but is also impacted by your own identity, educational experience, and personal values/judgements
  • Reading the research of others’ experience with teaching or difference is helpful, but you cannot translate the characters you read about onto the lives of the students in your classroom or expect what you learned to apply to or explain the behavior of the students in front of you
  • “Teachers need  to consider their students not in terms of single identifiers, but as the embodiment of a complex set of identifications that must be considered together, rather than independently from one another” (10).
  • “The research presented in this book aims to encourage heightened awareness of systematic patterns of ignoring, suppressing, and denying difference as well as of recognizing, highlighting, and orienting to difference. Such engagement is sorely needed among both teachers and students in writing classrooms” (15).
  • “The public nature of classroom interaction, even within the relatively private realm of small-group peer review workshops…may be an area in which students are unwilling to take too many social risks with their discourse” (18).
  • “…three ways markers of difference can improve writing pedagogy: by enabling us to resist simplistic generalizations about students, by helping us identify possibilities for rhetorical agency and open up dialogue, and by providing a means for recognizing and revising ways of interacting in the classroom” (27).
  • Good read for: all instructors, but especially those with small courses or sections

Teaching ESL Composition: Improving Accuracy in Student Writing
Ferris & Hedgcock

  • Covers benefits and drawbacks of error correction for ESL students, strategies to correct errors, and effective ways to teach grammar to ESL students
  • Includes activities for teaching grammar and editing, as well as error charts that can be used by students during the revision process
  • End includes a course plan for trying error treatment processes:
  • Begin each course with a diagnostic needs analysis
  • Discuss the importance of editing and introduce self-editing strategies
  • Gives students feedback on essay drafts at various stages of the process
  • Give students time in class to self-edit marked drafts and to chart their errors
  • Design and deliver a series of mini lessons on grammar and error strategies
  • Intentionally move students toward autonomy throughout the writing course
  • Good read for: instructors with ESL students, writing instructors, classes with research papers, writing intensive courses

Composition 2.0: Toward a Multilingual and Multimodal Framework
Steven Fraiberg

  • A guide to what multimodal projects are, their uses, and how to create and manage a multimodal project
  • Student populations are becoming increasingly heterogenous, with 1.5 generation students that are facing  different linguistic and cultural identities than previous generations of students
  • Teaching ELS, writing, and composition has to change in order to effectively teach a new generation and population of students
  • Some recommendations are:
  • “Code-mashing” – blending multimodal and multilingual texts and literary practices in teaching and research
  • “Knot-tying” – looking at the tying and untying of genres, texts, language, and people
  • Re-Articulating Composition – returning to the study of the writing process as a complex cultural process where the writer is involved in the knot-working of languages, tropes, narratives, ideologies, images, etc.
  • Good read for: all instructors
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