tlg ink: 10 Self-Evaluation Questions for Writers

What have you written this term that you are most proud of? I think I’d choose my Bits post Does Length Matter? I enjoyed tricking a few friends into reading the post with that provocative title, but more so, I’m proud of the post itself. It allowed me to say something about my teaching philosophy and to show how it’s developed over the years with (sometimes embarrassing) examples from the classroom. I don’t think I’d change it even if I had the chance to revise.

So much of improving as a writer is about looking back at your writing and drawing conclusions about what has worked and what you would change. I’ve always felt the end of a term is a wonderful time to ask students to do this kind of reflection and to think specifically about how their writing has changed over the weeks of the course.

In the past, I’ve used asked students to take an older text and revise it or to compare it to something they’ve written more recently. For a long time, I asked students to revise the in-class placement essay that they had written during the first class session. I’ve also tried asking students to analyze that placement essay, essentially doing a peer review of their own work.

These assignments have begun to feel stale to me however. Last December when I wrote Ten New Course Evaluation Questions, I began wondering if I could come up with something similar for students to use as they reflect on their own work at the end of a term. I wanted to find some short prompts that would ask students to reflect on their writing in thoughtful and fresh ways.

The result is the following 10 self-evaluation questions for writers. Some of the questions were inspired by Darren Rowse’s 7 Links for Bloggers.

10 Self-Evaluation Questions for Writers

  1. What text did you enjoy writing most this term?
  2. What text led to a great discussion?
  3. What text are you most proud of?
  4. What text will you keep after the term is over?
  5. What text had the best title or subject line?
  6. What text shows something new that you learned?
  7. What text do you wish you could do over?
  8. What text did you work the hardest on?
  9. What text irritated you the most ?
  10. What text do you wish would go viral?

I won’t use all these self-evaluation questions at once, of course. I’ll either choose four or five, or I’ll hand out all the questions and ask students to choose four or five for themselves.

I will also take some time to discuss the body of work students should consider. I want students to think about all the writing that they have done for the course. Everything from discussion forum posts to formal texts will be appropriate. I’m thinking of also including any writing done for any course or maybe any writing done for any purpose during the term. If the text a student is most proud of was a Facebook status update, why shouldn’t I let it count?

Finally, I will talk about what I expect the answers to look like. If the writing is primarily online, I will ask students to provide links to their work. If it’s not online, the answers can be a sort of table of contents that goes with printouts of their answers. For each answer, I want students to include several sentences that explain their choices. My first paragraph in this column is an example of the kind of response I’m looking for.

I’m eager to see how these questions will work. I like the fact that they ask students to think about all their writing over the course of the term. That should provide a chance for more reflection than the assignments I’ve used in the past.

In a way, this self-evaluation feels like a new take on portfolios to me. Rather than a portfolio of best work or one that shows a single piece from start to finish, it’s a portfolio of selected works that shows a range of writing for the term. I may even try writing up answers to all ten of the questions myself. Who knows what I may see now when I look at things again.