2009 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 21, 2009
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Mending Writing: A Democratic Process in the Foreign Language Classroom

Inma Raneda-Cuartero and Frances Gilroy (Spanish and Portuguese Cultural Studies)

As professors of a writing course in a foreign language, Spanish 303 Stylistics Through Composition, we understand that one of the most tedious, and at the same time, one of the most important tasks that we have in the course is that of grading papers. We are all guilty of procrastinating, and when we have the mountain of essays in front of us we often question the utility of our corrections. We frequently wonder: are our comments relevant, beneficial or even appropriate? Is it necessary to correct all the errors? Do the students learn by reading our marks and commentaries? And if they do, why do they continue to make the same errors time after time? If the correction does not fulfill its purpose, why do we continue to do it? Why do we do it if it does not seem to help anyone, professors and students alike?

Long habits often get in the way of more innovated and effective ways of working. We have realized the importance of integrating in the writing component of the foreign language class the techniques, objectives and the usefulness of the correction to make it more compatible with the different process of composition.

How can we help the students to correct their mistakes? What can we do so that our students actually take advantage of our marks and comments?

We propose a new approach to the interaction that takes place between professor and students in the classroom via the essays.

  • From a traditional system the student assumes little responsibility:
    • The professor gives instructions; the student follows such instructions.
  • To a method of mutual collaboration where the professor is the reader of the text:
    • Professor is the reader of the text
    • Student is the author
    • The professor and the student have a dialogue to review the text in depth and to discuss ways to improve it.

This new approach restores the authority of correction to the author (the student). The professor acts as a respectful reader with the author, asking her to clarify and explain what he does not understand. This new approach to grading (marking) allows mutual collaboration in a more enriching way: speaking instead of marking. In order to achieve this we have developed a series of activities and tasks to give the student a more important role when it comes to writing her essay; in other words, giving her back the responsibility that she has in the classroom.


Index of Symposium Presenters