Reviews Teaching Writing

Stacey Cochran “My WID Assignment Sequence and Conferencing Experience; or How I Became an Expert at Being a Non-Expert”

Conferencing is an excellent way to not only build rapport with students, but to support and grow student writers.  In a conference, a writing professor can address the individual needs of each writer: checking in on their writing progress, asking questions that help the student develop as a writer, and even proofreading assignments.  Unlike marks on a student’s paper, conferencing allows for personal, timely feedback in the context of a dialogue about the student’s writing.  Moreover, conferencing puts the responsibility on the student, and makes the professor a support to ask questions that guide the student writer.

Here, Stacey Cochran outlines the writing assignments he assigns and his methodology behind these assignments.  Central to Cochran’s methods are conferences and student-selected project proposals.  Through the professor-student conference, Cochran describes guiding students to a research proposal based on the student’s expertise.  Using one such conference as an example, he writes:

“In that fifteen-minute conference, I had talked with him. I had let him know that his interests mattered. They were valuable. And that as his English 101 teacher I wanted him to teach me about what he knew and what he would come to know the rest of the semester.”

Cochran’s example is encouraging for professors seeking to grow student-researchers in their writing courses.  How do you use conferencing and student-selected assignments to help your students grow?

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