As a rhetoric professor, I prefer to teach my students process writing. If they leave my class with an understanding that little by little a great paper can be built, then I am happy. (I would be even happier if they would apply this information, but I can’t make them.)
Last semester I attempted to instill a sense of how important this could be by having the students take a diagnostic essay. Then for the next two weeks we discussed the concepts of rhetoric using this essay assignment. After that, without warning, the students wrote the diagnostic essay again. Most students improved significantly.
This semester the students are coming in for 15-minute conferences after they have done their research and written a solid draft of their paper and before the paper is due, so I can give them specific and immediate feedback. In order to make sure that everyone gets in for a conferences, and so that I don’t have to be at work for 16 hours a day for a week, we don’t meet class this week.
All the students who signed up have come in. Some students, who were having difficulty, have come in twice already.
I think they are getting good help, but I don’t know whether it will make a huge difference. I suppose if I consider what the solid first drafts would have made, that tells me that, yes, the students’ paper have improved significantly.
So far the students also feel like the time to come in and have conferences is helpful, but of course they are exchanging three hours in class for 15 minutes (or 45 minutes for a few where I got long-winded) of conferences. That makes their time commitment much lighter, even though I have a heavier time commitment.
With the conferences, I usually end up doubling the contact time I have with students that week (three to six hours or, for two classes, from six to twelve hours). I do think that the conferences significantly impact their grades, though, so I do feel it is worth it.
Sometimes I wonder if they ever think of getting their papers done early and having a professor look them over… They occasionally do, because I have students send me papers for other classes and ask if I have time to give them some feedback. I had that happen just last week, as a matter of fact.