Week Three: Editing as Process Learning

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Image 1: CMOS Proofreading Marks

In last week’s post, “Week Two: Editing for Evaluation,” I was beginning to think about how to grade editing. I was sure I wouldn’t use red ink. I was sure that traditional Chicago Manual of Style proofreading marks were in order, and I was sure that the feedback needed to be realistic. In other words, I didn’t want the feedback to feel artificial or unlike a real exchange with a senior editor.

The difference, I soon realized, was that the intention in grading for evaluation is to develop the writer, or in this case the aspiring editor, and the intention in editing for publication is to develop the final product. This difference sounds oddly akin to the process vs. product pedagogical debate scholars in rhetoric and composition once had. Yes, I say “had” because it’s in the past and most scholars would agree that developing the writer through process is a more effective approach to teaching.

There’s more than one way to define these pedagogical approaches and The Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric’s website compares them well:

“While these distinctions may not hold up under deep scrutiny, they were useful in the early years of Composition Studies as a way of talking not only about what students write, but also about how they write.   James McCrimmon, for instance, understood this distinction as the difference between writing as a way of knowing (process) and writing as a way of telling (product). Donald Murray defined it as the difference between internal and external revision (revising in order to clarify meaning for oneself vs. revising in order to clarify meaning for the reader). Linda Flower framed it as the difference between writer-based and reader-based prose. Though these theorists differ in their definitions of the distinction between process- and product-oriented writing, they do agree on one point: good product depends on good process.”

Rubric categories created by Dr. Carrie Leverenz.

Image 2: Rubric categories created by Dr. Carrie Leverenz.

Going back to the realistic editing scenario I wanted to create for students, I can see now why I felt challenged. Tensions exist between the process-style of teaching I’m used to and the product-style required in editing. I’m still not convinced that grading more like an editor, for the product, is the best way, but I am confident that a combination of traditional copyediting marks and a rubric might be a good solution. Dr. Leverenz has created a rubric for this exercise that focuses on good editorial judgment, error correction, clear editing marks, and clear querying (see Image 2). I was fortunate enough to hear back from Dr. Michael Charlton at Missouri Western State University, the same professor who wrote a course design for a technical editing course, published in Composition Studies Journal, Spring 2013. He shared with me the rubrics he referenced in that design, which were quite detailed and elaborate. I was impressed, but for the purposes of this first editing assignment I think the rubric we have now is a good one with which to start.

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