How might I bring into my composition classroom time for my students to think things through, to figure them out, which will make them learn better? How can I encourage the willingness to keep working on something which will help them succeed, even excel, at English?
I have tried, to greater and lesser success, several things.
One thing that is supported (nay, required) by the department here is scaffolding. Give the students a bit of the work to do. Have it due. Then have them do another bit. Having little bits at a time encourages them to work on it over time, which gives their brains time to think about it when they aren’t working on it.
That is not something they get if you only have the major projects due.
Most students will work on the major project in a single section of time, perhaps two.
This focused experience is true of strong students as well as the poorer ones. It is just that the strong students tend to spend that first section of time at the beginning of the project’s timeline and then the second section at the end, so that there is space in the middle for their brain to have thought through what they were working on, which enables them to see where they could have done something better and fix it.