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Three Ways to Respond: In Conferences

Conferencing with students is exhilarating when students experience moments of powerful insight. Conferences are beneficial to instructors, as well. The writer’s presence enables you to clarify intended meanings while allowing the student to understand the goals for their writing.

  • Begin the conference by asking your student to tell you something about the piece of writing (which you should have read in advance). For instance, what helpful feedback did their peers have? what part most needs attention?
  • Tell the student what’s good about their work; then, when necessary, invite them to clarify it by asking, “What do you mean to say here? I don’t understand it.” You may even ask the student to read a sentence aloud to illustrate a point about their writing—convoluted expression or funky grammar, for example.
  • Encourage each student to take notes on the conversation, which should be as dynamic as possible.
  • Let your students know that conference attendance and promptness is mandatory.
  • Meet individually with students or with small groups, organized according to similar needs or complementary talents.
  • Schedule conferences in ten, fifteen, or twenty minute increments, depending on how many students you have per conference (group conferences take longer). Arrange conference sign-ups in class, through email or the course website (check with the computing resource for your department or division).

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