The History of “Innovation”

There I was, thinking myself so clever for coming up with “new” ways to grade papers.

No wonder that new ways to handle the paper load, advances in efficiency in the production of response, have a long history in the teaching of college composition. The use of lay readers (called “reading assistants” at Vassar before they were phased out in 1908) may be one of the earliest, but it was only a harbinger. Here is a short list of shortcuts, with date of earliest record I can find in the post-WWII literature.

  • Mark only the presence of problem, leaving it up to the student to locate and correct it (1940)
  • Use a projector to respond to student writing in class (1942)
  • Use a checklist, or rubberstamped scale of criteria (1950)
  • Hold one-on-one conferences to respond (1946)
  • Have fellow students read and respond to papers (1950)
  • Hold one-on-two or one-on-three conferences to respond (1956)
  • Record comments on audiotape (1958)
  • Respond only to praiseworthy accomplishments (1964)
  • Have students evaluate their own essays (1964)
  • Respond only to a limited number of criteria (1965)
  • Have students use computerized grammar, spelling, or style checkers (1981)
  • Add comments to the student’s digital text with word-processing footnotes or hypertext frames (1983)
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