Types of Workshops – Structures that Work.
Below are various structures that can be adapted to different kinds of workshops and a variety of purposes. All can also be done as quick workshops of 5-10 minutes at the beginning or end of class as a way to practice something you have discussed.
METHOD: Students pass drafts from person to person in a large group / whole class with everyone commenting on one feature and then passing the paper on and commenting on that same feature on the next paper, repeating a third and maybe a fourth time.
PURPOSE: This provides students with multiple perspective on one thing, perhaps the introduction, the clarity of the argument, or the extent to which the paper appears to be meeting the assignment.
VALUE: As they revise, students need to learn to consider multiple perspectives and sort through the comments to look for areas of overlap, shared concern or praise, common areas of confusion, etc. and respond accordingly.
METHOD: Students pass drafts from person to person in a large group / whole class with everyone commenting on one feature and then passing the paper on and commenting on a different feature on the next paper, repeating a third and maybe a fourth time.
PURPOSE: This provides students with quick feedback on several aspects of a later stage draft. The first pass might check for format, the second for an appropriate title, the third for a clearly stated thesis or argument, the fourth for a correct reference list, for example. Round Robins might also focus on genre-specific features such as section headings, inclusion of all required sections, clarity of methods section.
VALUE: Students receive feedback on the structural aspects of the draft, saving the instructor from spending time commenting on these aspects. Also, by focusing on one specific aspect at a time in the writing of their peers, students become more able to review and revise those aspects in their own work.
METHOD: Students are divided into groups of 3 or 4 and each reads either the entire draft in earlier stages, or part if the drafts are more fully developed. Using a feedback form, each student comments on the aspect of the paper identified (introduction, organization, clarity of argument, use of examples, etc.) Small group workshops can also review citations, highlight cited material and review how well students are creating conversations between sources or indicating where source material begins and ends.
PURPOSE: Keeping these groups small allows for students to review several different essays and receive review from several people, while still providing in-depth feedback.
VALUE: As they revise, students learn to consider multiple perspectives and sort through the comments to look for areas of overlap, shared concern or praise. Generally small groups include conversation in addition to forms, so they learn to read feedback and then ask questions where they need clarity.
METHOD: Students are paired and read and discuss their complete papers at each stage of the writing process from pre-writing to final editing. Time should be set aside in class for this so that the instructor can monitor the groups and trouble-shoot/facilitate discussion where necessary. Ideally the conversation will continue outside of class. At the end of the process, students should be asked to (confidentially) assess the quality of the feedback they received and explain which advice they took and why. Extent of feedback should receive some credit to encourage time and effort.
PURPOSE: This method focuses the students on the importance of audience and encourages deep collaboration on writing and thinking.
VALUE: Working in pairs requires students to begin drafts earlier and encourages meaningful revision. By focusing on the writing of others, students are more able to identify similar aspects of their papers that need work and also areas of strength in their own writing.
ASPECT TO MONITOR: because students are given only one partner, the quality of the feedback they receive is entirely dependent on that person. This kind of collaboration, therefore, tends to work better toward the end of the course when earlier workshops have helped students begin to ask the right questions and feel confident in their revision suggestions and strategies.
Quick versions of any of these workshops can be held at the beginning or end of class to focus on an issue that has been discussed in class as part of a larger scaffolding of the paper (for example, after a discussion of a citation, students could check in-text citation in a paper, review format of the works cited list, or highlight introductory phrases).