This was the advice I wrote in the margin of a couple of dozen college papers I returned to students last night. I put the directions for their recent assignments back on the projector and showed them again that they both called for evaluating an author’s evident strategies, based on things like structure and style, for effectiveness. Nothing in their assignments asked for personal reflection about the topics of their texts, and yet, that’s the majority of what I got.
Coincidentally, I just read this excellent essay by Mark Bauerlein, which perfectly echoes my experience. In short, students need to be guided to write analytical work, not fluffy reactions. Amen.
At one point in the discussion, Coleman paused to note a problem in the teaching of writing in English classrooms: the dominance of “personal writing … the exposition of a personal opinion … the presentation of a personal matter.” Continue reading