Devolved Writing

In October, during Staff Development, the ISA faculty learned about a process called Devolved Writing. I applied this process in my Digital and Interactive Media classroom. I looked at an assignment from the previous year and considered how the writing could be improved. At first, I was at a loss, as seen in my reflection document. I finally decided that the weak point of my assignment was student reflection about the Performance Outcomes (P.O.’s), so I decided to devolve that writing piece.

I created a document, with a very good paragraph, and 3 other paragraphs that were not as good. I printed these out and asked students to put them in order from best to worst. Then, with a partner, they wrote down how the best paragraph was different from the next best, and so on.  This process was kind of rushed, so I created my own list from their suggestions as a reference for their homework. Prior to this lesson, students had written their own paragraphs on the exact same prompt. In class, I asked them how they thought their own work compared to the examples, and for homework, they were challenged to improve them.

For the following 3 days of class, students worked independently on the remaining requirements of the blog post, incorporating new technical skills to document their month-long project.  Since they were self-directed, I used the opportunity to have one-on-one conferences with each student about their paragraphs. I realized that some students had really taken the devolved writing lesson to heart, and created very good pieces. Nearly every student benefited from the conferences, even though many of them were highly intimidated to come to my desk and talk about their work. I learned as much from the conferences as the students did. Overall, I realized that the stumbling block to good writing in this circumstance was a disconnect between their experiences and the concept behind the P.O.

The writing was focused on one section of the Habits of Mind Performance Outcomes. However, the project addressed all sections of the outcomes.  Having spent several days on this already, we were running out of time, so I created sentence stems for students to reflect on the remaining outcomes.  Students are familiar with Data-Based Questions, from their other classes, so I called this assignment “Experience-Based Questions“. The results were FANTASTIC. Students did a great job explaining how their experiences connected to the Performance Outcomes when provided with a bridge between the two. Despite having the same sentence stems, everyone’s answers were specific, diverse, and rich.