1. When I was visiting my parents for fall break, I was rummaging through some old papers and ran across an annotated bibliography I had written for a literature course on the theme of courtly love in Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales. The paper had no comments but the following:
A- (90) See CS. Good content and bibl form
The comma splice, which was utterly a careless error on my part as I knew the mechanical rule in that case, was marked on one of the pages.
The thing is, that's about representative of the comments I got on all the papers I ever wrote in college (undergrad), even in composition classes. I never got comments anywhere near as substantive as the ones I give my students. I'm wondering if it's maybe just because my papers were good, and because of that the professors didn't see much need to make that many comments (and students with weaker writing skills got more comments), or what. In my classes this semester, I've asked students what kinds of comments they've gotten on their writing in the past, what kinds of comments are helpful, etc. I think I'll share this story with them. Actually, at the time I didn't think anything of it or expect more comments than that. It is said that some students don't read the comments anyway, so maybe some professors don't see much point in making them. Do comments really help? Do they only help if the paper gets a bad grade? Jonathan and I discussed this briefly, and he had a different experience in college -- more of a range, with some professors making very lengthy and detailed comments and others making minimal comments. He always appreciated them (and I assume he got As on most of his papers). What do the rest of you think? What kinds of comments did you get on your writing when you were in college? (Or high school.) How do they compare with the comments you make on your students' writing?
[Edited to add: Lest you think otherwise, I know there's a copious body of literature on responding to student writing. I've read a good bit of it. The articles I've read, though, have tended to compare ways that teachers respond to student writing and argue that facilitative comments are better than directive comments. I'm more interested in what students have to say about the comments and what student expectations are regarding comments. I know that comments can influence students' motivation and confidence levels, but I guess I need to read more Nancy Sommers to get specifics.]
[Okay, I keep thinking of more to add. Where I went to college, the professors have high caps and heavy teaching loads. The assumption may well have been "I'll put a grade on this paper, and the student can always come to my office if he/she wants some clarification about the grade." Reading some of the comments at Dean Dad's (linked below) made me think that, especially with all the time spent on email with students, how much commentary can professors realistically provide on any one paper in anything resembling a timely fashion if they have 100+ of them to grade?--and possibly have any energy left? I guess the point is, I really don't blame my professors; I know they were worked hard and probably just trying to balance work and life. The professor who graded my annotated bibliography (now retired), for example, was the single mother of a teenager at the time.]
2. I wonder if there are any studies that examine the influence of email communication between students and professors on retention and attrition rates. In recent years, for example, professors have become obligated to email students who have missed two or three class periods in a row to inquire about their absence and do more to help them get caught up (I realize this must be different in large lecture courses). There are many factors that affect retention and attrition, I understand, including adjunct labor, but I'm still curious. It may not even be possible to design a study that isolates email communication as a factor.