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A friend asks: “Would it be bad form to point out the typos in my class materials?” My answer: Probably yes.

After I posted my grades for this term, I made a dumb typo in this celebratory meme, and a friend pointed out the error on social media. Another friend, who is just starting a new grad program, asked: Curious, would it be bad form to point out the typos in my class materials? I’d say that correcting an instructor’s proofreading errors is probably not the best way to start an…

If You’re An English Major You Should Take a Journalism Class–Even If You Think You Hate Journalism

Journalism is not everyone’s cup of tea. The short, blunt paragraphs and inverted pyramid that tells readers exactly who, what, where, when and how from the get-go are creative writers’ worst nightmares. There is virtually no element of suspense, no character development, and no world building. Right? Well, not exactly. Just like creative writing, journalism is detail-driven and can include humor and depth. Quotations add dimension and often a human-touch to a news story. Experienced journalists know to keep bias out…

Why Can’t My New Employees Write? | Just Visiting

We’re talking about elite students here landing jobs in highly desirable firms. These are Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.” We can presume that their educations have been rigorous as they’ve climbed to the top of the meritocratic heap. If these young professionals can’t write well, who can? And if they’re not writing well, why not? My belief is that the experience of these elite students is similar to my very accomplished, but…

Ice Cream and Sharks

Scene: writing classroom.   Me: (setting up a lesson about correlation vs causation) What would you say if I told you that ice cream attracts sharks?   Student: I’d say you’re an idiot.   Class: (chortles and gasps)   Student: (looks worried)   Me: Don’t worry, this is definitely the highlight of my teaching day. Please tell me *why* you’d call me an idiot.   (The student went on to…

How to Reduce Racial Bias in Grading (Use Objective Rubrics)

To gauge the potential impact of a standardized rubric on grading bias, I conducted an experiment comparing how teachers graded two identical second-grade writing samples: one presented as the work of a Black student, and one as the work of a white student.

My experiment found that teachers gave the white student better marks across the board—with one exception. When teachers used a grading rubric with specific criteria, racial bias all but disappeared. When teachers evaluated student writing using a general grade-level scale, they were 4.7 percentage points more likely to consider the white child’s writing at or above grade level compared to the identical writing from a Black child. However, when teachers used a grading rubric with specific criteria, the grades were essentially the same.