Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why I'm not that favorable towards writing.

Even though writing can be a way for students express and develop their own opinions and a method to show how far a student has progressed in English, I am still not warm to the idea of writing essays that asks me to take a point and explain my own ideas. The rational dislike of writing essays is due mostly to my conditioning during my high school years (to get good grades) and the variety of teachers I have studied under. I've always felt that the purpose of my essays, at least, is the get me the highest possible grade, and because of this objective and not subjective goal, I write essays that are not coherent with my own opinion, but with the opinion (or at least matching) of the person reading or grading the paper.

This creates two divisions in the road: one good and one bad. The good route is that the reader and the grader finds the essay to meet his or her expectations and thoughts, and thus gives the essay high marks. The bad route is that in process of trying to meet the reader's fancy, I write with a thesis that I do not have that much support to back it up (but I still write it because it becomes a bet of either writing an essay that reaches the same intellectual support as the reader - and hopefully receives a good grade on the basis of favoritism - or an essay that matches my liking and is well-supported but then is marked negatively because of possible reader's bias) and thus receives a bad grade due to lack of support.

I support writing as a way to express the writer's ideas, but not if it is graded. I feel that essays without grades, but with feedback, would be the best way to develop a student's writing dexterity.


  1. The assumption underlying your comment is that what professors most want to see is an essay that reaches a conclusion that the professor has also reached. With very few exceptions, that's not the case. What professors want to see are signs of intellectual life.

    That said, I agree with your sense that the best way to learn writing is not through quantitative grades (which are always reductive) but through qualitative comments. In fact, that's the reasoning behind my paper grading system. Your drafts are only worth two points, and those are just to make sure that you actually write a meaningful draft. The points you receive on your draft tell you very little, but they're accompanied by substantive comments.

  2. In high school I felt that I didn't receive enough feedback on my essays. All I got back was a letter grade and a few comments about my grammar, so I didnt know what areas I had to work on. Writing is a way to develop and express your ideas, and professors should help the student advance their skills by providing thoughtful criticism. A grade does not mean much to the student as far as what areas to improve on. However, grades are an important way for teachers to assess the progress of the class. Without grades students might lose the motivation to write a well formulated paper.

  3. I completely disagree with your way of writing essays. You shouldn't write to please the instructor, and follow their opinions, but instead write your opinions and hope that the instructor can see your point of view. The instructor should already know the opposing point of view, especially if they have taught on the topic multiple times, and if you support your point of view well, that should be enough to warrant a good grade. Sometimes I also write against my own opinions, and when I do that, it is easy to tell that I don't truly support what I'm saying. I think that it's better to go with what you actually think, instead of what you think that the instructor wants you to think, because often, the point of the instructor was to get to know what you think.

  4. If you expect feedback on your essays, isn't grading just another part of that feedback? Isn't it easier to see that you've progressed from lower-graded work to better-graded work than to interpret the comments that you've been given?

    I think it's not really a good idea to have just a grade or feedback. Once you have both, you can sort your work by grade and look at the bad ones for what not to do. Then you can look at the better ones and attempt to replicate your previous sucess.


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