Low Stakes Writing: Victor

(Sorry I can’t be there this week!) I particularly enjoyed Tarvers’ discussion of literary criticism and its relation to outdated as well as relevant composition theories being taught in classrooms today. As this brief piece clearly shows, the “problem of language” has, as of the last century, been at the center of theoretical discussions; as such (and, honestly, it never had occurred to me to include something so “deep” or “theoretical” in a composition class) it seems only fair to introduce composition students to some of these issues. Tightly related to this discussion is this week’s topic of low stakes writing. Once again, I was very pleasantly surprised when I read these articles and reflected on the possible advantages of this kind of writing. I am with Tobin, who, at the end of her essay, tries to strike a balance between process-driven and product-driven methodologies. While I am a strong proponent of (gently) imposing a certain structure onto students (if anything, one against which they can react—in this way, the professor can sometimes become a sort of devil’s advocate and thus achieve the same kind of student involvement that pure process-oriented ideologies strive for), I also believe that allowing students the liberty to explore their ideas and the very nature of language through writing that they know will not be graded or judged can be extremely beneficial. Elbow makes an excellent point in commenting on the sometimes-illegible quality of high-stakes pieces of writing compared to the (if simpler) comprehensibility of low-stakes assignments: this, I believe, far from establishing the superiority of low-stakes assignments, points to the division of styles that is so crucial for an understanding of language and that students often have trouble understanding unless they see it in their own writing. As Anson et al point out, writing must also be exploratory, and as this week’s readings show, low-stakes writing is a splendid way of allowing students to explore.