Issues Today

Understanding the Problem

Students often find it difficult to manage time effectively when they have to write an English paper. All they know is read the essay prompt, write the paper, add the required number of reference sources, type the paper, add citation references, “check for grammar,” and print it. In fact, both students and professors alike have adopted these methods for meeting the requirements of classroom writing assignments.

In addition, students also struggle with understanding what a professor wants. The professor’s job is simply to teach students about concepts that underlie the English discipline, which include the principles of literature, writing, and teaching. Sometimes this goal becomes the only focus of the professor. He or she becomes an information resource versus a mentor capable of demonstrating the practical aspects of writing and revising English essays.

Professors write margin comments on students’ papers, expecting each student to understand what the comment means within the context of the paragraph. The professors attach a grade to the paper. The student takes the paper home, looks only at the grade at the top, and discards the comment mentally. For both the professor and the student, the grade is the goal.

What happens to the comment? The only time the comment really becomes important is when the professor allows the student to revise the paper for a higher grade. The student never thinks about the grade in relation to the comment and the professor doesn’t explain the connection to the student.

Papers with “be specific” in the margin don’t have a chance of growing, so to speak, because the professor doesn’t know how to explain to the student what this comment means and how to apply it during the process of revising the paper. All the professor knows is that one particular sentence within a paragraph fails to explore a thought fully. In essence, the professor doesn’t know how to “teach” fully expressing a thought as a method for helping students revise their papers.

Professors need to adopt practical methods for teaching revision that include helping students apply margin comments during the process of revising academic essays. Students need to develop better time-management skills by developing a schedule for implementing the revision process.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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