Along with student-centered methodologies and collaboration throughout my curriculum, formative assessment and revision are central to my composition teaching. Many students enter my English 1010 and 2010 courses with a traumatic or troubled relationship with writing. To enact my objectives noted earlier, prioritizing formative assessment is crucial, as is entering into a conversation with students via a robust emphasis on revision. This approach allows students space to shake off identities of failure and turn towards understandings of the self as capable readers, writers, and rhetoricians.
To meet these goals, I focus on revision-based scaffolding of students’ efforts to bridge from familiar literacy acts and rhetorical work to those they are less experienced with (such as reading and writing tasks they face in college). All high-stakes assignments are designed with plenty of steps and stages that include formative assessment work and stages of responsive revision. All assignments (high-stakes and low-stakes) are open to revision after summative assessment. Students may revise any assignment as many times as they wish to do so, with each revision addressed as a new submission for evaluation. Students may engage with me in conversation regarding their revisions, or they may choose to share their work with others, or perhaps they simply revisit it themselves. Although I highly encourage it, my respect for the student as a whole person means that I do not require students to meet with me prior to revision–nor even to revise at all.
As I communicate to them on a regular basis, I trust their abilities to make their own best decisions for themselves as to their resources (of which I am one), time, efforts, and priorities. Attachment A and Attachment B provide examples of formative and summative assessment based on student-generated evaluative criteria that encourages the students to revise, yet does not require it of them.
Additionally, I have long practiced using “Grading Contracts” with students (particularly in ENGL 2010) so that students have more control over their final grade in the course and so that my assessments of their writing can function more as formative response rather than summative. (See pp. 3-4 of this ENGL 2010 syllabus.) With the Grading Contract, students can still revise their work as often as possible, and they do so knowing that their grade is not ultimately dependent on the outcome of that revision, but rather the process of it. This allows them to revise as a developing reader and writer, not as a pursuer of an externally assigned grade.