Backing Up

Today in my Humanities section I need to make a little speech about what constitutes acceptable performance on assignments because I sure have been reading a lot of response papers that could have been written without opening the book. Once a week the students are assigned a writing prompt and they are expected to come to class with a response that uses textual evidence for support. They then discuss their responses with others who have written on the same prompt, and they are encouraged to revise their work after small and large group discussions. The prompts are very specific and require the integration of support in every instance. But, lo and behold, far too many papers are omitting support altogether. Now there are three possibilities for this.

  1. I haven't communicated my expectations clearly (i.e., it's my fault).

  2. The students don't know how to do this. In other words, I've set a performance standard, but they lack the necessary skills and practice to meet it.

  3. They know how to achieve my standard but are testing me to see if if it's possible to get by with a lower level of effort.
In my younger years I probably would have suspected either hypothesis one or three above. I am pretty sure it's two, however. So today we're backing up and starting over. What is textual support? How do I cite the text? Why do I have to do this? I hate to give an entire day over to something most of them should know when they leave high school, but I'm not doing the job if I don't.


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