Response to McGuire’s Workshop

It was great to hear the relevant advice and anecdotes from Dr. Saundra McGuire last Friday. It was an especially rich experience to listen to the workshop after having read the assigned reading for Living Lab. A central theme that stood out to me in both the reading and Dr. McGuire’s talk was the importance of achieving that delicate balance of challenge and encouragement that students need to succeed. This is particularly difficult in my Developmental Writing classes since students often begin the semester with a strong sense that they have already “failed” by being placed in my class (rather than in English 1101). This is often exacerbated by the departmental practice of administering a “diagnostic” essay exam in class during the first week of the semester. This helps to determine the students’ strengths and weaknesses, but it also serves as another reinforcement of their poor performance. As a result, students in Developmental Writing often significantly lack motivation. I have been focused on clarity and organization in my classroom, but now I will consciously integrate strategies to increase student confidence from the beginning of the semester. Perhaps, I might integrate a low-stakes writing assignment before the diagnostic, or I might develop another confidence-boosting activity to start things off. Hopefully, this will begin the term by reinforcing the students’ potential rather than their deficits.

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