Teaching Writing What Counts as Writing

What Counts as Writing? The Purposes for Writing

When we think about assigning writing and writing activities in our courses, we often think about it in terms of the number of words or pages we want students to produce over the course of the semester. In some cases, such as with Writing Intensive courses, we might even have a specific number of words students are expected to produce, or a program or department might require a specific number of written assignments and activities for a specific course.

Evaluating Writing Feedback Teaching Writing

Giving Formative Feedback

Image by Rebeca Zuñiga, CC BY 2.0

In our previous post, we discussed the why, how, and when of giving feedback, and we identified formative feedback as one of our most effective tools for teaching and learning. In this post, we’ll continue this discussion of giving effective feedback by looking at what formative feedback looks like, describing both its characteristics and providing examples of formative feedback statements.

Evaluating Writing Feedback Teaching Writing

Giving Effective Feedback

Feedback by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

Effective feedback is context-specific, determined by the purpose of the feedback, the time in which feedback is provided, and the goal for providing the feedback. To make your feedback effective, consider why, how, and when you are giving feedback.

Why Are You Giving Feedback?

Before you set out to provide feedback on student work, consider the contexts governing your feedback.

  • Are you providing feedback on a low-stakes writing-to-learn assignment or are you providing feedback on a high-stakes assignment?
  • Is this feedback being given to facilitate revision, or is the purpose of this feedback intended to be applied to future assignments?
  • In what stage of the assignment is the feedback being offered? Are you providing feedback on a final draft accompanied by a grade, or are you providing feedback on a work-in-progress that can be revised?
  • What is the goal of this feedback? To teach specific disciplinary writing conventions? To assess mastery of the subject? To encourage deeper learning?
Teaching Writing What Counts as Writing

What Counts as Writing?

Photo by John Walter

When we incorporate writing into our courses through writing to learn activities, learning to write assignments, or both, we have made the conscious decision that writing is an important tool for facilitating learning. While we may agree that incorporating writing and writing instruction into our courses is important, how often do we stop to ask ourselves what counts as writing?

How we answer this question shapes the ways we teach with writing in our classrooms; it determines the concepts, strategies, skills, and knowledge we teach when we teach writing; it defines the kinds of activities and products we assign in our courses; and it governs how we provide feedback on and evaluate student writing.

So, what counts as writing?