Responding to Students
Responding to Students avatar

Hello everyone,

I see responding to students from two very different perspectives. My main job right now is working full time as a writing coach here on campus. I also teach a section of English 100 at Palomar in a f2f classroom. These two perspectives have allowed me to view giving feedback in different ways and using different tools for my feedback.

As a writing coach in a Writing center, I can’t always use the tools that I use in the classroom (rubrics, goggle docs, email feedback, peer review freedback) in quite the same ways as in the classroom. One primary reason for that is that in the Writing Center, we do not write on drafts-our pedagogical approach stems from the fact that we are ideally functioning as “peers” responding to another peer, so writing in a margin or at the end of the paper is not viable. Students do not always remember to bring in rubrics and prompts or drafts with instructor feedback- so sometimes the tools are conspicuously missing in the session. However, in the Writing Center I do fall back on some basic principles that actually serve me well when responding to my own students’ essays: As a reader, criteria based feedback, and Socratic questioning. These strategies still translate well to online feedback, and I am using them for online feedback in my f2f class, where I am responding to their drafts online through Canvass and the speedgrader platform that Canvass offers. As a writing coach, I do give feedback online to your students, and the tool we use is either snagit or Camtasia 9. The things that is interesting about asynchronous feedback is that I have to be more directive than I would be in person. I try to balance that directivity with key placed open ended questions (often for when I am trying to get a student to add more writing, so those open ended questions are usually brainstroming in nature). Online feedback also means that I have to do things like narrate my moves. I say things like, “let’s scroll to page 3 now and look at the paragraph that start with…”. This helps students get situated in the context of their essay, and then I can scaffold my recorded feedback better.

As a writing teacher in a f2f classroom at Palomar, I use speedgrader to give digital based feedback. Speedgrader has some nice digital features that mimic what it is like to give written feedback on a hard copy draft. You can write marginal and terminal comments using a text box type feature. You can highlight, draw with a drawing tool, and include  what they call “point annotations” when you want to create a longer comment. I tend to use the point annotation feature for offering models or sentence starters, or for when I ask more open ended questions intended to generate thinking, more reading etc…Speedgrader also has a way to record audio feedback. I have been playing with the audio feedback for my terminal comments that sort of sum up the next steps that I would like to see them take in their next draft. I plan to play with audio feedback on my next batch of essays by using it to record model sentences and some grammar feeedback- feedback that I feel has been, in the past,  hard to do online.

Ultimately, the tools I use for feedback in the Writing Center have had some really good implications for how I teach in the classroom and give feedback to my students online. I have seen myself do more scaffolding with my feedback. I also feel my Writing Center feedback experience has enabled me to take on a better persona as a responder. My students see a more friendly responder, and they say that my “as a reader” comments are less scary and thus more “doable” than when they hear me respond as a “professor”. I think they still feel it is a professor response, but the “as a reader” comments actually encourage more revision from my students.

Last, my online feedback experiences from my Writing Center work has also changed my practice in the classroom. Stuudents are often overwhelmed by too much feedback. But the online feedback I give to your students here in the center has trained me to pick only 3 top tier higher order issues to focus on. So in that way, I see myself cutting down how much I respond to my own students, and I hyper focus on only 3 next steps for them to tackle in a revision. This 3 next steps is a key to the Writing Center’s pedagogy for online, yet it is so interesting to see how it has impacted my teacher persona when I am responding.

My Final Post
My Final Post avatar

Hi All,

It was lovely to be able to learn from you all. I have enjoyed reading your posts, thinking deeply, and talking back and forth. I look forward to fall and more discussions.

I think the big take away for me from all of this is how amazing it is that a community of educators can come together and share such great insights and that you have all created such a wealth of resources and things to think about. The one other central theme that stand out from my posts and the discussions in general is that our students benefit from the flexibility that online technology offers, and we have the ability to create such rich spaces of engagement with the tools at our disposal. It is exciting and a bit overwhelming, but I think we are all up to the challenge.

Here are my posts:

Post 1- Technology in the WC

Post 2 My Framework

Post 3 Student Centered Learning

Post 4 process and Feedback

Post 5 Reading in the Writing Class

Yes, the essay assigned is based on a reading from class.
Yes, the essay assigned is based on a reading from class. avatar

In a writing class, the essay is almost always based upon class readings. So when students come into the writing center and ask why they need to mention the book, I usually ask them, “why do you think the instructor had you read the book?” and “How might the book help you write your essay?” these questions are usually followed by several beats of silence and deep thinking on the part of students.

When I was teaching writing at Sacramento State and Sac City College, I focused heavily on reading. I embedded modelling of how to read a text, created reading cohorts, did jigsawing, forced students to reflect on their reading process at the end of each paper they turned in. Their portfolio cover pages almost always had a nod to how often they re-visited a book or article, what type of notes they had to make to understand the readings.

Today, I tend to ask students who come into the center metacognitive questions about the reading for their class essay:

What part of the reading fits best into your intro paragraph? Why does that quote work as a hook and not the quote from your second body paragraph? So if a hook draws us in, how do you know that quote is hook worthy?

How did you come to choose this quote to back up your view that X is…..? How does this quote go back to your topic sentence?

What did you have to do to understand this article? Why did that reading strategy work for this novel? Did it work for the ted talk you watched on this topic? No? Why?

While I agree with some of what Wornock says about quizzing, I personally hate reading quizzes. One semester I asked students to create their own reading quiz questions based on some criteria I created. Then after they wrote them on the board, we revised the questions together and tightened up the “quiz” and each group gave their reading quiz question to another group. It was fun and it worked because in order to ask a really good, nuanced question meant they had to open their book and skim the reading again, think about how they would answer the question in order to write a good quality quiz question that made the reader think. I imagine it could be used in an online class.

But back to the meta questions. I think students need more practice reading and using meta questions as they read. They can create those questions both about their reading process and the content of the reading itself.

Unit 4 -Process, feedback, teaching writing online
Unit 4 -Process, feedback, teaching writing online avatar

I want to focus on two things that resonate with me. First, I was struck by a series of questions that Warnock asks the reader in chapter four: ” Teachers have to consider the use of stylistic approaches such as rhetorical questions, idioms, and metaphorical/figurative language. Will they work? In many cases, Hewett thinks they will not (2010, 2015b), advocating linguistically direct (not necessarily directive) response instead. Is it better to be as direct as possible? How much does a teacher balance prescriptive advice with Socratic teaching the OWI Course
questions?” (159). In terms of revision and that part of the writing process, I think what spurs students to revise is when we are clear in our comments and feedback. If they can see that you are advocating they do X in a revision, students will revise. Writing Centers have always advocated non-directive feedback, and yet, asynchronous online feedback is by nature more direct and directive, and I think it should be. I would advocate to be both linguistically direct and at times even directive, because I think that is what students need. In my discipline there is a new-ish conversation happening over the question of if non-directive is the best approach for students. If I take the position that my job is to help students de-mystify writing and the writing process, perhaps directiveness is needed at times. It makes me wonder in the revision process if we all should be more directive about how to go about revisions and what choices to make in revising. Part of me thinks students would really appreciate a heaping dose of directiveness.But then I go to how do we balance it with the non-directive needed to help them explore and make big decisions as writers and learners?

The second idea that resonates with me is from the blogpost by Christopher Syrnyk. He writes,

“I asked the staff to consider how we treat the writer as a person during this encounter where we engage in Online Writing Instruction (OWI) in cyberspace.

Cyberspace—Like City Lights, Receding

Or, The Online Writing Center Experience

Allow me to clarify what I mean by treating the writer-as-a-person in cyberspace and how this relates to OWI. In this blog post, I’m thinking mainly about the live “chat” work we do with student writers. It’s worth noting that some students come to the UW Writing Center for their first appointment via Synchronous instruction. Presumably, their first encounter with a writing center is via an electronic interface.”

It made me think how the Writing Center or WC treats the writer as person in a cyber space environment, and also how some of WC work could impact feedback and giving revision feedback to the whole person/ student writer. In so much of composition, the WC pulls and adapts from f2f and online writing classes, but I think online writing classes can also pull from pedagogy of online WCs. So it made me wonder how explicit engagement of writing process in an online writing class can be born out of asynchronous feedback we do in the Writing Center. I think that building relationships with students in online feedback is something we do so well here at MiraCosta. It seems like students feel a connection and feel heard by the coaches responding to their writing online. What if several times a semester the feedback writing instructors give was a video? What would happen if in that video you narrated what you see them doing in their process? or we could narrate what seems to be working in their writing process. How would that help to both use technology, connect with the whole person as a writer, and also help develop building those linguistically direct feedback skills that help propel student writers into thorough and quality revision during that phase of the process?

Chapters 4 & 5 Student Centered Learning
Chapters 4 & 5 Student Centered Learning avatar

Tony, I greatly enjoyed the commercial break and your old school Coke ditty:)


These two chapters made me ruminate on how we engage our peer writing consultants in training at the Writing Center (WC) and how we might re-envision how we engage in aspects of online training with our peer consultants. I love Freire’s writings, and I fully use his student centered approach both as a composition and literature instructor, but I think I can try to embody more of Freire’s problem posing with our peer consultants in a WC context.

I particularly like what Tony said about focusing on how we present ideas over presenting course content. That notion is resonating with me as I type this. One of the challenges the WC faces in some of the online training is getting that rich and deep level of discussion from our consultants. In chapter four, Warnock reminisces about his professor from grad school, and he describes how the professor used the Socratic method building out from an easy to more complex scaffold: “He [Timothy Martin] would warm us up with easy questions, building our confidence and creating classroom energy before delving into more difficulty issues that were the objective of that class lesson”(31). This idea of building and scaffolding the critical thinking flow with students is compelling in an online space. I could see the Writing Center coaches doing a similar thing online, essentially using Tony’s suggestion from the video: we pose a simple question on a google doc about a concept and see where it goes on the document. Then we look for interesting patterns in their comments, and based on those patterns, we next offer up a theory reading that has been shortened or modified in some way, and our peer consultants can then go off and think about the topic, ruminate and do more discussion based upon the original post and the WC theory reading. I think this would build confidence with our peer consultants in the work they do, as they would get more time to think and chew on concepts and ideas. I know in the WC we have a big learning curve, and confidence can be an issue for this reason; consequently, scaffolding discussions  online in this way would potentially help to build their confidence and really let them work with a concept/ idea. I see us doing the application aspect that Tony suggests later on after some rich discussion. They can try that concept for several weeks in their feedback sessions, and then post or modify that original google doc with their findings, reflections, experiences.

I am also struck by his idea that smaller groups might work better to curb unwieldy chat in a synchronous chat session (33). But I wonder if that idea maybe also applies to discussion board posts, asynchronous discussions, or google docs too. For example, when in a f2f class, I always liked to do no more than 3 people in a group, so everyone would contribute and talk. I wonder if smaller cohorts for the online discussions would change dynamics and sort of force everyone to contribute. I am not sure how much that complicates managing students, but I am intrigued by the possibility.

I am also thinking that I can grow in how I interact with online training of our peer consultants by creating some room for synchronous discussions. As far as the discussion in chapter five, the syllabus in an online class, I imagine we can actually create a syllabus for our peer consultants training. Perhaps having that contract and list of due dates will help them see the overall objectives of the semester’s training. We do that planting the objectives and the due dates of reflections verbally and on our website section for our consultants, but a syllabus or a modified type of syllabus might be a good possibility for the future.

My Teaching/ Facilitation Framework
My Teaching/ Facilitation Framework avatar

Hi Everyone,

I am joining a bit late. But I want to thank Curry for encouraging me to join in on this fantastic journey with you all.

About me: I work as a full time writing coach in the Writing Center. This semester I am on all 3 campuses: CLC, San Elijo, and Oceanside. I am a happy and incredibly grateful graduate of the CSU system where I did my B.A. at CSU Fullerton and my M.A. at Sacramento State. I have additional teaching certificates in Teaching Composition and in Teaching Reading to Adults. I am passionate about literacy and developing better reading/ metacognitive skills with students. I taught English 100, Basic Writing (when it was called that at Sac State), and a hybrid online model of English 100. I taught reading classes at Sacramento City College, and I spent a year at Montana State University teaching American Literature, FYC, and an advanced composition course.   Then I had my twins and put work on the back burner for the wonderful and crazed work of raising my twin girls. While I did not anticipate doing writing center work, I started working in the Writing Center here at MCC in 2014, and I feel like I am following my bliss every day I come to campus. Right now I am right in the middle of my Orton-Gillingham certification training classes. I hope to be able to better serve our students with dyslexia after I complete my OG training.

My Framework for working with students online:

So I am hesitant to use the word “teaching” here, since I am coming from the perspective of writing center work—we facilitate- right?! But when I work with students online in a feedback session, I feel like we have to be more directive because we use a non-synchronous platform for our feedback. At times that lends itself to conversations and interactions that push that facilitator line to more directive type teaching. Because I have online connections with students in much shorter bursts than a 15 week class (I create a 5-8 minute personalized video with feedback), I have had to adapt my in class teaching pedagogy a bit for writing center work. Here is what I value in teaching:

I want to have deep connections with my students: I want them to know I value them, their unique experiences, their life and academic contexts and histories, and I want them to know that I am here for them as both writers and as people living in the world. To do this, I believe in a “call you in” type relationship where I invite them in and hope they will invite me in too. This means I create as safe a space as possible for them to express their ideas. I see students as my teachers in many ways. I learn something new from the students I work with every day.

“Because the students don’t actually see me, I try to create links between us, not just to develop a sense of camaraderie, but to create an audience for them” (8).

I want to push past this limitation of seeing or not seeing by using technology like screencast to record my face and voice in a webcam introduction to their feedback video. But I also try to create more personal links when their paper is on the screen, and I talk through a revision idea. I try to do this with specific compliments on what they have done well or a brief mention of my own writing experiences, if my experiences relate to what the student is doing in their writing. I do try to record a brief intro to my video using the webcam, so students can place a face with my name and voice. I hope this makes them feel more connected to me- the person giving them feedback. I almost always thank them for using our services and compliment something concrete they did in their writing.


Writing is a Process: I want them to learn something epic and life altering-ly big or to them seemingly small (I don’t ever think these realizations are small at all) about their process in each interaction I have with them both in person or online. In feedback, I use lots of open ended questions. I ask them to experiment with moving ideas around on the page. But I also want students to be metacognitive about their process. How did mind-mapping the reading help you? Why did mind-mapping work better for you than traditional note-taking? OR Why did moving that mention of the author’s credibility work better as the second sentence in your intro over where it was before? How/ why did you decide to move it there? If they walk away knowing they have a process and could draw me a map/ picture or narrate their writing process and why it works for them- I have succeeded in some way!

“The continuous writing environment makes it ever possible for students to learn through their own work in a studio-like environment (Grego and Thompson 8)” (xii)

This resonates with me because we use studio style at San Elijo. In fact the Greco and Thompson article was our jumping off point to shift to studio in the center. Students don’t need an appointment; they drop in. The time with students then becomes less about the product and more about their process and identity as a writer. With studio, I facilitate more active learning because we can talk out what they want to do in our time together and then after we have discussed an idea or concept have them practice and apply a concept while I either physically pull back to give them space to apply what they learned. But I get to check in on them again and read again what they just practiced on their own and validate it or get all meta with them on how it worked for them. I would love to find ways to do this online using our a-synchronous model, but obviously there are challenges there.

De-mystify Reading and Writing in a Safe Space: I try to be as explicit as possible about academic writing. I believe in models. I believe in explicit instruction. I want to break myths (elementary to high school) they have been told about writing or what makes a good writer. I think students want to be able to practice their skills in a safe space and have us there as that back up support to talk out what they just tried or experimented with in their writing.

Finally, one goal I have is to extend how we work with students online beyond the online writing feedback videos we create.  This may mean online workshops, discussions, content pages, online videos on how to critically read for various disciplines… I am not sure yet what, but I hope to learn how to do that with the most sound online pedagogy.

Here is my video:


Technology in the Writing Center
Technology in the Writing Center avatar

My (limited) LMS experiences in a nutshell

My biggest concern with an LMS is if students will have the skills and access to fully utilize the the system to fit their needs and learning style.  When I was teaching a hybrid class at Sacramento State University, I worked primarily with Canvass, and I felt that it was easy to use, and I was able to set up my class and add materials quickly. I also like several aspects of Turnitin for facilitating student feedback online. I like that with Turnitin I could program my quickmarks for some more explicit grammar instruction, and I could highlight where a mistake happened, embed the grammar rule via the quickmark with a built in example, but I would not correct for them, and then the student would be able to try and self-correct later. My beef with Turnitin is feeling Iimited with how thorough and focused I could be with positive and revision-based feedback. The margins just seem to not offer the right amount of space. I cant draw arrows to specific areas of a sentence- something that is part of my feedback pedagogy. I think Blackboard is clunky and generally feels old fashioned to me, but I am interested in learning how to utilize Moodle, I just need the time and motivation. 

At Montana State University, we used Desire to Learn (D2L) and it was pretty awesome. You could create content via drag and drop. You could embed images and there was a web conference option that I tried a few times to have conferences over student drafts. there was even ways to personalize, and create analytics to see how your students were progressing. Students said it was pretty mobile phone friendly too.

Shift to the writing center…

In the Writing Center, If I could invent my own LMS for online writing feedback, it would be an interactive white board that would have an alert and pop up the web cam of the student when they were ready to work. There would be a synchronous way to see the essay on the screen and both myself and the student could capture notes and revision ideas with our finger- I am thinking a sort of drawing tool can write right onto the essay. there would also be a blank whiteboard canvass next to the essay that could be used to capture brainstorming, model sentences, or we could cut and paste in a helpful website or link. There would also be digital sticky notes and highlighting options, so we can better facilitate reading strategies online. I just need a degree in coding and about a million in Angel money funding, and I could invent a platform! Did i say there would also be a recording option, so the student could go back after we signed off and re-visit aspects of our session? I know a lot of this exists, but my experience has been that they crash… so not crashing would be nice. 

Warnock’s argument that students need the skills to utilize the communication tools (19) is one of the main concerns of the Writing Center and barriers to moving towards a synchronous online feedback system. Students without the skills and access face so many barriers from navigating the platform to eating up their appointment time just trying to get online, to not knowing how to upload their draft. Any platform for online synchronous feedback needs to have a high ease of use for our students. Any advice or ideas for upping our online approach or services is appreciated.