Part 3 of the series on appreciate responses to student writing. The main reason why I use this method is that it effectively improves student writing in the short term and can create incredibly rewarding scholarly relationships in the long term.
The fundamental reason why I use this method of response is the palpable effect it has on students: Not only on their writing but on their whole self-fashioning as scholars.
An immediate effect is, as stated before, that students begin to take their work more seriously as a result of finding their work being taken seriously (apparently, unfortunately, a rare experience for many students). Because they receive my response not as a judgement of a final result, but during their process of writing, they can see it as meaningful communication and begin to care less about the final grade but rather about how they are being understood and what strategies they can employ to improve this understanding.
Often, students directly engage with my response in my office hours and begin to clarify points which I have mentioned as being unclear or answer questions I have raised – all I have to do is to ask them to work their own clarifications into the text during revision. The revision process as such, as a reaction to my response, makes them aware of their own agency in writing.
In the medium term, students begin to see themselves as members of the discourse community – because my responses treat them as such. They experience their research interests as legitimate and they can perceive me as a partner and a resource in their individual pursuit of knowledge.
This again creates longterm working relationships between my students and me, which is amazing to see even only after a few semesters: Some students have written several papers with me in which they go into ever greater depth and tackle more and more difficult questions. In the supervision of these students, I equally learn from them and their growing expertise as they do from me and mine.
My colleague Jessica Koch, who has adopted and adapted this approach to her own supervision, also reports seing a notable improvement in student writing as direct consequence of her reponse-and-revision practice.
For me, these effects are a direct consequence of a specific structuring of the process of writing supervision and of a practiced stance of appreciative communication.
Next: 4) Examples