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They would then rewrite based on my written comments, trying des- perately to get the paper up to my standards, and return the final effort to me for a grade. Clearly, the concept of the writing con- ference had been lost on me.

In the few conferences I did schedule, my basic writing stu- dents were cordially invited to sit down in cozy proximity to me in my office with a mauled draft on the desk between us. The student, eyes shifting back and forth from the draft to me, sat silent, nodding when appropriate.

In the interest of self-evaluation, I even asked students to tell me in their journal writing how they felt about the conference experience. The diligent students responded that they were grateful for the abundant feedback, and, in turn, their revisions mirrored my ideas, and the final product was graded accordingly. Freeland made me see what a bad writer I am and how hard I will have to work to pass this course. Every semester I would lose or fail approximately one- third or more of my basic first-year students. I was forcing students to make rote changes in their drafts that had no meaning to them as writers, whereas TEACHER RESPONSE AND ASSESSMENT o ERIC sitting for hours writing prescriptive, mostly negative comments on student drafts exhausted me. I knew I had to rethink my approach to teaching writing and how basic writing students learned to become writers. I needed to create in my conferences a climate that allowed students to learn based on their own observations of their writing. Rather than telling them where their writing needed work through copious, hand- written comments, I wanted students to discover, through a genu- ine sense of audience need and writer purpose, what worked and what did not in their writing. As a result of these adjustments, I have seen over the last three semesters a marked change in student motivation, as well as lower attrition and higher grades.

Changing the way we think often requires changing the way we speak.

A multitude of drafts soaked in my authoritative comments might inform students that this is true, but they only truly learn by discovering that, as writers, they are capable of making decisions about their own work.

Therefore, I also changed the way I respond to student writing. Because as a writ- ing teacher I have extensive experience in solving writing prob- lems, I sometimes find myself slipping into the best online essay editing service authoritative role of teacher and dominating the conversation. Using nonevaluative, open-ended questions in dialoguing with basic writing students about their writing is a strategy that af- firms a collaborative relationship in the writing conference. Instead of telling students what they are doing wrong and how they should fix the problem, I begin by assuming that the writer knows the work better than I do (Connors and Glenn 1999, 57).

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I try to remain silent while the student writer thinks of a response, even if the silence goes on for an uncomfortable amount of time. I may think I know the best answer, but I must give the writer time to work out his best online essay editing service best online essay editing service or her meaning and purpose. Once the writer has spoken and I have listened, I often summarize, or mirror, what was said in an effort to reassure both of us that we understand the ideas. A writing conference is often a balancing act between spontaneity and pedagogy (Black 1998, 25).

Another crucial element in establishing a collaborative reader- writer relationship with my basic writing students in the writing conference is having them gain ownership of their writing pro- cess through reflective writing. This exercise puts the students in control of their own writing processes and sets the agenda for the conference (Walker 1992, 72). Although basic writ- ing students may lack writing experience, they have been listen- ing all their lives and are usually capable of identifying unclear statements, choppy syntax, or illogical organization. In other words, students adopt the role of intelligent reader for a few moments while listening to the sound of their own words. As the writer reads, he or she discovers, as a reader, some of the prob- lems with the content and language of the text. The student leaves with plenty to work on for the next revision. But before the student writer walks out of the conference, I ask him or her to jot down either on the draft or a separate piece of paper what we learned in the conference and goals for revision. Those notes will become a reflective journal or letter that assesses the revised work. The postconference reflective journal encour- ages the students to narrate, analyze, and evaluate their own writ- ing and thus connect this assessment to their own learning (Yancey 1998, 146). Student writers become responsible for reading their own work critically, reflecting on its strengths and weaknesses, and discussing possible revision strategies while fortifying their writing vocabulary. This reflective journal serves to expedite my response or the responses of other readers such as peer groups and can also be used to set the agenda for a subsequent conference. After several conferences with me, I find that students begin to emulate this writing conference model in their peer groups. By the middle of the semester, as I listen to groups interact, it is with great satisfaction that I hear writers talking about writing. Reflective writing teaches student writers to evalu- ate their own work, which makes my job as facilitator much less stressful. I was compelled to rethink my mode of assessment and move away from traditional grading practices to portfolio as- sessment.

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