Reading Room 10/16- Student-teachers Across the Curriculum Learn to Write Feedback Does it reflect on their writing?

Journal:  The Journal of Effective Teaching

Feedback is extremely crucial in the writing process and all writers need noted elements to improve on.  However, there are often times where people may not give the best feedback and it doesn’t constructively respond to authentic learning.  In the Journal of Effective Teaching article “Student-teachers Across the Curriculum Learn to Write Feedback Does it reflect on their writing?” by Esther Cohen-Sayag, Cohen-Sayag focuses on feedback on quality writing (more than themes and language aspect of writing).  Feedback is very crucial for teachers in their classrooms.  But do many teachers truly practice accurate methods to give/receive feedback?  Cohen-Sayag looks beyond the English teachers in this study and based off of other subjects.  Sayag gives an overview of this study by looking over how feedback changes with writing competency.

Writing down feedback is one of the ways a teacher-student relationship creates a conversation with their work.   In other words, the teacher may give quality notes on how the student could improve their writing or possibly the teacher will give questions for the student to think about on this assignment.  Feedback enables the students to have a chance to put more effort into their work and truly dive into the material.  What seems to be the challenge with receiving feedback on writing is that students want to appease their teacher and not writing based on authentic learning.  The intentions are not clear for students that feedback should be a consistent conversation between a teacher and student to express the writing.

In this article, Cohen-Sayag delves into the complexities with feedback, “The complexity of feedback writing depends on the context of the writing circumstances, teachers’ perceptions and goals and on the writing assignment” (Cohen-Sayag, 6).  The teacher’s goals on this writing assignment shouldn’t be highlighted during the feedback process.  If the goals truly do not match the feedback given by the teacher, the student is not authentically learning.  However, this is where Formative feedback comes in handy for students.  Formative Feedback relies solely on looking at the goals they want with their writing and how could they project their writing to the readers.  They would need to forget about on all the spelling mistakes and everything relating to syntax as well.

The resulting effects of feedback from the teacher in this study found behaviors and methods was very crucial for these student writers.  Second language writers felt feedback on condensed writing qualities was more helpful than non-condensed notes on their writing.  Second language writers found it extremely challenging to find those spelling/grammar mistakes and that their feedback had to be directed at their writing.

Other problems with writing feedback can cause so many challenges for teachers.  This one has to do with teachers look at specific lines they point out in an assignment and ignore the importance of comprehending the writing process each student uses.  The other one has to do with a teacher being extremely critical and do not give too much positive feedback on their writing.  Lastly, teachers are too bogged down on the technicalities of writing and completely disregard the ideas included in the assignment.

The course for teachers to practice accurate feedback and make sure they are ready to give notes for their future teachers.  The feedback should give the teachers to look back at their writing themselves.  However, it gets very tricky when it is strongly stressed this process is very formal.  The teachers should authenticate their learning by giving feedback in order to read the children writing.  All of this will be based on the child’s point of view in the writing.  The teachers need to read the writing aloud the written text with their colleagues so that accurate discussion is met in this course.

I found this article to be relative to my experience as a graduate instructional assistant in the creative writing program because it helps pose questions for me when I give feedback.  I have had creative writing professors tell me to always give positive notes and where they could expand in regards to craft.  However, in my practicum seminar, I hear my peers tell me it is challenging to continue to praise the students’ work all the time because not every paper they turn in will be great the majority of the time. In addition to that, I have to continue to stop myself from giving them formal notes on their writing and look more at their ideas.  How could their ideas be improved on by using craft elements?  To me, that is authentic learning inside the classroom because as an instructor, you are interested in their ideas.  We are taught by our former instructors/teachers that we have had in the past to put emphasis on grammar.  Correct grammar and spelling should be crucial for a student because you do want the writing to follow, but are we too engrossed in that aspect?  Shouldn’t we be fixated on their concepts that work with their writing?  That is something that I learned with this article.  It is something I need to continue to work on as a graduate instructional assistant.

Reading Room October 9th-Role-play in Literature Lectures: the Students ’ Assessment of their Learning.

Journal: International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Role-playing causes nervousness and stage fright in Literature classes.  However, role-playing becomes less stressful once an effective method is used in the class.  In the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning article (written by Isobel Ryan, Ciaran Dawson, and Marian McCarthy) titled “Role-play in Literature Lectures: the Students ’ Assessment of their Learning,” the authors delve into the research with role-playing in a literature classroom at the University of College Cork, Ireland back in 2015.  This whole module dealt with folklore storytelling and the author(s) collected from all 18 students for the research project.

The authors based all their rhetoric on several theories involving theatre arts.   With drama, role-playing is used when a person acts out a persona completely different from who they are in real life.  That is pure storytelling theatrically because they are able to portray fictional scenarios by imitating someone different from themselves.  Back in the early days in Ireland, storytelling was something you saw outside and physically was seen.  By using this folkloric method of storytelling, students were able to be grateful to be in this new role telling stories.  Using Manfred Schewe’s idea of physicalization, the students are coming to terms that some of these concepts are very foreign and odd to them at first.  Each of the others now discusses the idea/theory of Teaching For Understanding (TFU).  What this discusses is a sense of purpose and includes form as well.  It involves the skills being naive, a novice, an apprentice, and possibly the master.  With this research, the authors look at student’s feedback on the emotional replies, stressing the crucial significance of group work, and gaining new friends being formed working in groups.  The authors use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT’s), essays, and several groups to center in on what they experienced with role-playing.

There was one role-playing exercise the students acted out in this research.  It was all traced back to a short story that has roots of oral traditions and connecting all the way back to the modern short story format.  This story was written by Donncha Ó Céilleachair and took place during the 1830’s.  The plot was around a woman who died at childbirth and the family had a conflict on where she is supposed to be buried.  Within society, there are lingering questions (dying at childbirth) if she should be laid to rest with her father or laid to rest with her husband.  What the students needed to do was change the turning point within the story at the point where the father gives the coffin to his son-in-law; the father gives him the opportunity to bury her with his family.  The two actors would involve a woman and a man in this role-playing performance.

Some of the methods had to do with the authors’ “pretexts” in class and how the students reacted to the role-playing.  In turn, the students developed their own classroom assessment techniques (CAT’s) before participating within the group.  After they participating in the group, the students began getting into role-playing. But at the same time, they were given questionnaires during the process.  What this did was give the researchers a chance to query students on what they thought about several problems.   The students’ essay responses had a lot to do with their role-playing in class.  The authors’ made the essay 50% of their final grade on this module. All of the essays were set up so the students had time to thoroughly go into further detail on the classroom assessment techniques.

I found this research very interesting because I come from a creative writing background during my undergraduate program.  I have studied and acted out some plays/scenes during class.  At first, I truly understood why role-playing can cause stage fright because it is so foreign and different.  But after writing scenes during the past 3 years, I come to realize it can pose so many questions for students and give them a chance to go outside their comfort zone.  This is something I would love to implement as a college professor down the road because there is so much creativity throughout the process with literature.  It is always fun to pull the creativity out of students because you make them the co-creators of learning (thinking back to Paolo Friere).

Thinking Beyond the Canon

Journal: Hastac

When we think about a syllabus, often there are visions of a packet full of background information on the course material, the required texts for the class, what is expected of the students, student learning outcomes, and a tentative class schedule for the semester.  However, this is not the case with this syllabus being discussed in this article.  In the article from the hastac journal titled “Thinking Beyond the Canon” by Flora de Tournay, Tournay identifies the complexities with this syllabus in regards to canon.  When you have several marginalized authors in the curriculum for the course, it is assumed that this would give students the chance to respond critically to the novels.  However, that is not always the case in some college classes and does more harm than good to the students.

With this new approach to the syllabus, it opens up possibilities for commentary, visual representations, and even notes left by the students.  For example, Tournay says this about the syllabus, “Self-authoring or -authorship, which here functions as the methodological manifestation of my own pedagogical approach, is also reflected in the course’s proposed content” (Tournay).  What this means is that the students are taking charge with the curriculum and in turn, the syllabus is a product to this activity.  In this course, the required readings are from African-American writers (which are either Queer or Female) that have been not discussed in your average English Literature college course.  All of these texts were mainly autobiographical, which includes the cultural history this author has endured in their life.  In a way, this gives students a chance to read the text like you are a writer.

Besides the texts being discussed during this course, the students are given essays that discuss the exclusion around the canon and what sort of hardships are faced when talking non-canonical literature.  Activities in this course would include group work, in-class free writes, and longer writing exercises; those writing exercises would be evaluated by their peers in class and several workshops would be assigned on the day of class.  The pedagogical goal is for the students to think deeper in literature at the higher education level and practice composition at the same time.  With revolving around the idea the marginalized authors and how the students can write about how the authors are not included in the canon, this affirms their chance to be co-designers of this composition course.

I found this article very relevant to Backwards Design because of the syllabus is designed to revolve around outcomes and desirable results (which is included in Grant Wiggins’s “What is Backwards Design?” chapter).  On top of that, in my creative writing course, I am an instructional assistant for, poet Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta shared with the class a crucial story.  She was a curator for a reading series, but only academics were allowed to this reading series.  To circle back to this article, Acosta and Tournay bring up a similar theme: exclusion.  The goal is to advise students to look at the deeper aspect of exclusion of these marginalized authors of literature and how to take authority over the discussion to focus more on inclusion outside of the canon.

You can see the syllabus here:

Decoding Deviance

Some Television shows can be used as pedagogical teaching methods for a certain course in literature.  In the article “Decoding Deviance with The Sons Of Anarchy” by Joseph Kremer and Kristin Cutler from Washington State University, the authors delve into the sociological theories found in the TV show Sons of Anarchy. Sons of Anarchy is a television show based on the fictional depiction of a 1 percent motorcycle club set in Northern California (real-life motorcycle  clubs like the Mongols or the Hells Angels come to mind).  In fact, some of the cast members are actual Hells Angels members in the show.  This storyline puts Sociological Deviance to the test and how it can be coded with each episode. For example, the authors of this article define Deviance like this, “Deviance encompasses criminal acts but also a variety of things that might be considered amoral (e.g.,pre-marital sex, abortion) or just rub people the wrong way (e.g., people chewing with their mouths open, people wearing sandals with socks)” (Kremer and Cutler, 92).  Now that could be the closest to defining concepts of deviance in Sons of Anarchy academically.  These ideas correlate to deviance and how to rate deviance with some characters from the show.  The article goes into further detail with the method being presented in this study.  A Sociology of Deviance course at a University in the Pacific Northwest was being held during the summer, with the Sons of Anarchy as being the main source material during the entire semester.  The students in the course were in charge of coding each episode, focus on all the categories related to deviance, and were required to read specific practical articles on 1 percent Motorcycle gangs in history.  This class was designed as a seminar course (meeting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).  The days the students did not meet in the class were meant for coding and extra reading in relation to the course.  A final project resulted in the culmination of data collected from the entire season of Sons of Anarchy.  This included the students most hated character, how the character’s actions connected to deviance, and how did this tv show help the students form their opinion on deviance itself.  Many students went as far as saying that watching Sons of Anarchy helped them connect to the sociological examples of deviance and to real life scenarios.  This entire course was a huge benefit for students to make connections to Sociological Deviance in Literature.  However, it is very important to know that this concept of using television shows for a class is solely reliant on a smaller class size.


This entire article reminded me of a conversation I had with the creative writing instructor I work with as an Instructional Assistant.  One of the things she primarily stressed was the importance of using multimedia as a tool for class.  Not only does this provide benefits to students staying engaged in the class, but lets them connect to real-life situations as source material for their writing assignments throughout the semester.  The Sons of Anarchy is a great television show to implement new pedagogical lessons being taught inside the classroom.  What a better way to study the sociological concepts of deviance than learn about a motorcycle club?

Teaching in An Online Environment

In Marsha Carr’s article The Online University Classroom: One Perspective for Effective Student Engagement and Teaching in an Online Environment, several universities are moving forward with a new design in online teaching.  What this means is that students are in favor of an online option for that specific course within their major.  Some of these reasons students are opting for online classes is because they either have a family or work-related responsibilities.  Carr warns that educators should consider how to present their online classroom to the students in an appropriate fashion and more importantly, shape the layout of the class to be formatted on an online interface.  Online courses go down a different route compared to the traditional classroom on campus and it is crucial to understand what the main takeaway is for students taking the course.


When taking on this new role as an online teacher, it is their responsibility to design the course based on the goals within the course, social aspects, and last but not least the information for the correct category.  The social interaction requires an idea for setting up sections for emails, online videos, and of course group work inside this internet classroom.  In order to successfully interact with the students, the instructor must have consistent updates, certain lectures each week, and discussion forums to answer questions about the course.  For some students, this is a new way to complete a course and approach a new way of learning through an online course.  However, for others, this is a daunting task to take on during a semester and some students drop the course due to the unfamiliarity of online education.   This is where the instructor posts a tutorial video on the online interface such as blackboard.  Blackboard is an online interface that encompasses forums, specific modules for the instructor to install on each section of the course, video conferencing (or an option to use Skype just in case a student needs to talk to the instructor face to face).  With all of these special tools required for an online course, it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure all of the students respond in the course appropriately in an academic setting.  These courses should be easily accessible to all students enrolled in the class and the instructor needs to install the correct link for students to submit their work online.


As someone who has had experience not only as a student taking online courses but also working directly with instructors as an assistant, I truly understand the pitfalls.  When I TA’d last fall in a creative writing class with 100 students, I can fully comprehend some of the disadvantages of working with students online.  Several questions came up as I was reading this article and reflecting on my experience with online learning: how do you assist a student when they are confused with a concept?  What sort of comments would be easily comprehensible for an online class when discussing their writing?  However, online classes will improve as time goes on and eventually, create a successful method to obtain the same goals an instructor would achieve in a campus setting.  After all, Marsha Carr said this, “Online course delivery is a valuable method of teaching but it requires an organized course format and delivery; an instructor who is knowledgeable in the environment; and students that are aware of the responsibilities and additional demands of the online setting” (108).