Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Quality Not Quantity

Next year I will be attending a knitting retreat and I’m one of the knitwear designers in the Designer Showcase. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should be in it since I haven’t published a lot of designs this year. When I talked with a group of people about it, someone pointed out to me that the number of patterns I published wasn’t as important as the quality of patterns I publish.

That struck a chord with me because I feel that way about my students’ work.

When I give my class a writing assignment, many times, someone will ask me how long it has to be. They want to know the number of pages or words that I expect. I can understand what they are feeling because I remember asking the same questions. Now as a teacher, I understand why my teachers would respond that the amount needed to be whatever it took to full complete the assignment. They were looking for quality and not quantity. I know some teachers even limited it to no more than a certain amount because there was always that one student that went overboard and thought more meant better. I had one teacher who told us that our grade would be lowered the more “fluff” that we added.

Yet, I believe students need guidance. I hated the answer I got and I try not to do the same thing to my students. I don’t like vague answers and I feel more comfortable with guidelines. Without guidelines, I spend more time worrying about the details than about the topic. I stress about whether I have given enough detail rather than whether I have given enough evidence. This affects the quality of what I’m writing. Even when I’m writing here, I try not to worry about how many words I write but rather whether I’m getting my point across clearly.

I think it is important to tell students what I expect. If I expect to see just a sentence, a paragraph, several paragraphs, or pages, students need to know this. I think it is better to give students some idea of my expectations so I may say, “Please write at least 3 paragraphs on this topic.” Or I might say, “ I expect one to two pages.” This tells students that I want some details. Once they have some idea of what is expected, they can focus on the actual work and not the rules.

I want to know if my students understand a concept or topic. I want to know if they can support their ideas and statements in their writing. Basic writing rules (Complete sentences, punctuation, grammar) always apply but the amount of writing expected should be made clear to students. This should not be a guessing game for students.

How do you share your writing expectations with your students? Please share.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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