Lynn Reid (Facebook, LinkedIn, Faculty Bio) is the Coordinator of Basic Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, where she has taught for the last six years. She has previously taught composition at the community college level and taught writing for the sciences and humanities at CUNY.
Lynn is one of the founding members of the Council on Basic Writing Facebook group, where the community frequently engages in discussions on peer feedback.
What motivated you to try Eli Review?
I saw it on Facebook and shared it with the Council on Basic Writing group. Then, I met with Bill Hart-Davidson, Mike McLeod, and Melissa Meeks at 4C16 to learn more.
How did Eli help you accomplish your goals?
I talk a lot about metacognition early in the semester because I draw from the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing early on. I have students think about their habits of mind, their strengths and weaknesses. Metacognition is on that list, so we talk about the importance of metacognition. The research shows that being able to think about your thinking is really the biggest benefit students can get out of a writing course.
I connect metadiscourse and giving feedback so that students understand why peer review is part of our course. Giving feedback is a way of training yourself to ask good questions of your own writing.
By using Eli, I was hoping to get to where I usually end the semester, which is with students being able to give each other really good constructive feedback, much sooner. Usually by the last paper, they can do it. I was hoping Eli would provide some steps to get them to doing that kind of work a little bit earlier in the term.
What makes you confident that students are learning more using Eli?
In Eli, I see students writing a lot more. They’re writing a lot more feedback because they’re typing it, because it’s online, and also because of the different kinds of questions I can put in a review. Students are big fans of rating things on a scale of one to five. Being able to do more than just write comments in the margins and do different things with feedback, these basic writers are writing more and, I think, they’re thinking about writing in some different ways.
Has working with Eli changed how you teach?
Eli has enabled me to maintain a portfolio of the little stuff. I’ve been trying to use Eli as much as I can to do some small pieces. For example, in class, we look at introductions for an essay, and we look at four different ways somebody might approach an introduction. Then, I ask them to write an introduction in Eli. We do a quick review task where they can look at each other’s drafts, just rate a scale of one-to-five on a couple of features, and then revise.
Being able to do those little things and keeping those little things has been helpful. They have an archive to go back to when they’re writing reflective letters in the middle of the semester and at the end of the semester. When those things get done on paper, they tend to vanish into the ether. The students who are able to access Eli regularly and who were able to do those things in class have a nice archive for their reflective letters.
The first time using any new strategy or tool can be difficult. What were your challenges, and how did you work through them?
There are two kinds of challenges: (a) challenges in general with technology for basic writers and (b) challenges of timing with basic writers.
Students can easily be overwhelmed. It’s the additional demand of one more sign-in, one more purchase, one more system to learn. I think it would be a lot easier if we had an institutional subscription, which would take out a few steps at the start.
Another challenge is the unpredictability around whether students will be ready to move on to the next step at the same time. Just because you assign something to be due on Tuesday, doesn’t mean students will have it done by Tuesday. It’s very likely in classes that some students will come in on Tuesday and say, “We had homework?” Others will have started but gotten stuck. There have been a number of times when I planned to do review in class only to find that my students weren’t at that point yet. I’m constantly adjusting my expectations for what we can get done.