Reflecting on Our Work

After reading the title above, you might say, “Hold on a second! It’s still April, and I haven’t turned in both of my Observation Essays yet–much less revised them. How can I possibly start thinking about what I’ve learned when I’m not done with it yet?” You may indeed need to do some writing and revising still, but we’ll set aside most of the remaining time in ENGL 431 so that you can meet with me to talk about revision and you and your peers can exchange drafts.

You all are done with what one could call the “content section” of the course. There’s only one reading left, and it’s intended to give us some ideas about what you could do to in the final reflective piece we’re talking about now. And there are only a few weeks of class left. So at this point I know you have deep thoughts about this tutoring and mentoring writing business. And you should share them–both with me and with each other!

First let’s look at the assignment itself. As you can see, it’s a pretty wide-open assignment in which I ask you to reflect on your learning, and on what you’ve learned to do. It can tell stories, connect to readings, mention inconvenient truths, discuss experiences, compare sites or spaces where writing happens, or all of these things. But most of all I hope it’s a short paper that you craft to tell me about the ideas and practices you think are important.

For today’s class I thought we might do some freewriting to isolate some of those moments or ideas you might use in the essay. Please break out something to write with and on and select one question from this first set to respond to. Write without stopping for ten minutes:

  1. What do you know that you didn’t know before?
  2. What do you know how TO DO that you didn’t know before?
  3. What do you think your coursework in 431 shows us about you as a person (not just as a student)?
  4. What does your work in 431 show us about your ability as a future teacher (possibly), graduate student in English Studies, or leader?

Then turn to people sitting around you. Share what you wrote with them? Maybe we can discuss one of these questions as a class?

Then please select some ONE question from this next list and do the same.

  1. What do you want this reflective piece to show about you, your reading, your writing, your tutoring or mentoring ability?
  2. How has your learning developed OVER TIME?  Point to some things that could show us development.
  3. What are the BEST things you’ve done, paragraphs you’ve written, points you’ve made this semester?
  4. What other things from this course could you include in the essay?  (List them)

And we’ll do some more discussion. Sharing ideas with each other about our plans for writing, I think, will help everyone get started with this final reflective piece.

Then we’ll talk a little more about assignment sheets. I get the sneaking suspicion that some of you believe that most college writing assignments are versions of the same thing. There are great differences in what different instructors are asking students to write!

At the same time, believing they’re similar (or the same) may be a reasonable belief if the assignment sheets students bring don’t contain much, or any, useful information. AND as a result, they leave students to guess about the professor’s true intentions.

Good assignment sheets often start with a RAFT and a TIP; when I work with faculty I recommend that they also include “Process/Timeline” and “Evaluation,” but that doesn’t fit easily in the acronym! Another great source is here.

Let’s practice today with one small part of the assignment sheet or prompt: the verbs used to name the TASK students are engaged in. Please get into groups and I’ll hand to each group a sheet of verbs and an Expo marker. Organize the verbs you see on this sheet into categories by writing them up on some part of the board. How many different kinds of assignments (based solely on verbs) do you all see?


Hey! I'm a professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English dept. at Chico State. Also disc golf player, indie music listener, and vanilla Marxist.

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