An Efficient Summary (Haswell)

Haswell, Richard. “The Complexities of Responding to Student Writing; Or, Looking for Shortcuts via the Road of Excess.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 2009. 1262-1289. Print.

Writing response is complex, time-consuming, and difficult, and study of our various attempts at simplification and shortcuts has a long history in composition scholarship. Haswell’s lengthy survey of research on instructional response is organized according to Du Gay’s “circuit of culture” model of cultural discourse activity. For the purposes of this article, Haswell defines response as “the recommending of ways to improve” a piece of writing; formative response beyond just grading or evaluating (1263). His purpose is not to list best practices (though there is a bit of that in conclusion), but rather to argue that shortcuts should be “doubly workable,” or as good for the teacher’s labors as they are for the students’ learning. Haswell discusses the problems and deep complexities of response in terms of the relationships between:

  • regulation (what it regulates, the apparatuses it uses, distinctions between criteria, genre/mode rules, disciplinary styles, and social standards),
  • consumption (how and whether students engage and evaluate response, and the differences between how students and teachers consume writing itself),
  • production (how much time is spent and which methods, shortcuts, or technologies are used in response),
  • representation (how teachers are represented by the act and space of response to students and others, the available writing-responder roles), and
  • identity (“the image we [students AND teachers] use to regulate our own practices in resistance to the cultural practices foisted upon us” (1278)).

Haswell suggests the following “directions for review, revamp, or creation” (1279) according to the same scheme:

  • regulation: “Teacher feedback can largely be a waste of time, for both teacher and student, unless the critical language is grounded in the specific rhetoric of the field under study” (1279).
  • consumption: “Attention to students and how they are receiving methods of teacher response requires extra time at first but may save time in the long run” (1279).
  • production: be above all ethical, and set “gain of student learning” against “gain of teacher time” (1281)
  • representation: “among the many roles of responder to student writing … there is a choice and some roles are more efficient and efficacious than others” (1281)
  • identity/resistance: “Identity is the representation one constructs of oneself, in part out of the representations others make of oneself. Professionally, it is the self one has to live with, on and in the job” (1282) his main advice is to be “craft wise” (selective and attentive)
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