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Thursday, February 21, 2008

And She Flaps Her Wings Like Annoyance

The evil School Faerie decided she wanted to be quite the little pest today. I just saw an email for my British Canon class saying that my TA wants everyone to have a full, six-page first draft of our final essays for the course by tomorrow for class (11:00 AM). I find that rather annoying. The email was sent on the 17th, but it still seems rather ridiculous for me to write a rough draft. I understand that for some people rough drafts (for essays) is really helpful. It's not for me. It never has been. That's not to say I'm smarter than other people, it just means I use a different process. I don't write good essays when I think ahead. And to be honest, when I write this essay and do this draft, I'll likely not touch it again until the day before the real essay is due. I don't like doing drafts. It forces me to think too far ahead of time and I like the pressure of having to churn out an essay in 48 hours rather than 336 (or 2 weeks).
So the overall result of having to do this rough draft is that I will learn nothing from the process of peer review in class. Here are my concerns over peer review in a college setting (at least in this case):
  • First, it's a COMPLETE draft. Not a partial. We're expected to bring a fully realized idea to a peer review workshop for a DRAFT. If it's a complete draft, why do we need a peer review for it? That's like saying "I'd like you to write, but not put much thought into it, and then spend hours editing". For me, this is like destroying the creative process. I'm going to bring six pages of this paper in, all completed, and then be expected to go back and do significant edits on it. When I write a paper, I write it to be finished with it. I don't write drafts. I never have written a draft and miraculously I do remarkably well on essays. Go figure. The draft process is useless to me.
  • Peer review in a classroom setting has NO value to anyone except in the following instances:
    • Someone with considerably better writing skills gives opinions to some of lesser skills, which means that the person of lesser skill learns a great deal, but the person of greater skill gets shafted.
    • People of relatively equal skill all help one another.
      This is the underlying problem with peer review in the classroom. People are not all of the same skill, nor do they all go through the same process. I might get stuck with a bunch of people that don't know what they are doing, or don't fully understand, or whatever. Generally this is pretty common, as I've been in other peer review groups before. What happened in those groups? They told me some things were wrong, and when I didn't change them and turned the essay in anyway I got an A. What did I learn? I learned not to listen to people in classroom peer review groups because they haven't offered me anything worthwhile. That's not to say they can't be useful to someone else, but the whole premise of peer review in classrooms for essays just doesn't work for me.
  • I'm going to talk to the TA or professor about my paper anyway, so why am I going to bother with students who likely won't be able to help me? The TA even expects me to speak to him to make sure to solidify my idea.
  • I don't like this obsession with peer review for essays. I'm not writing to please the students, but to please the TA or professor. If I were trying to please a wide audience of people I would likely write differently, but there is a set formula to writing college level essays, even if there doesn't seem to be, and I write within that formula and get my good grades. That's it.
Now, having said these things I feel like I need to clarify. I'm not saying I'm smarter or better than other people in the class or in any class. Far from it, actually. I'm saying that for me the process of writing rough drafts for peer review is pointless. I don't work that way and never have. In fact, if I look back on my history of essays there is actually a legit reason for me to dislike rough draft/peer review for essays. When I do rough draft/peer review and follow the methods behind it I end up doing worse than if I just kept with my usual habits. My process just works better for me.
So the end result of this is that I'm going to write a six page essay, because if I don't my grade will be docked (as said in the email). I'm going to give my essay to a bunch of people to look at and have them tell me "well this is crap" or "I would change this", etc. and then I'm not really going to listen to them and do minor editing the following week. My grade won't slack because I'll have followed the same process I would normally, and I'll just pretend that tomorrow is the deadline for the final draft.
Needless to say, this is a crappy day. I wanted to get a lot of writing done today.

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