When a student arrives in session asking for feedback on a draft, it is tempting to jump in and begin reading. Certainly one of our roles as tutors is to provide helpful comments as quickly as possible. But a critical part of the experience in writing support is for writers to assess their own work. Consequently, we always ask our students the following questions before we read their drafts:
Question 1: What do you like about your draft?
Question 2: What concerns do you have about your draft?
We intentionally keep these questions broad. That way, the writer is asked to consider any aspect of the draft’s challenge areas.
When we ask these questions, most students jump to the “concerns” question. After reading the draft, sometimes we agree with their assessment and we provide specific suggestions regarding how to improve a challenge area. Other times we tell them that we don’t notice any problems in their self-identified challenge area, and instead offer feedback in a different area.
It could be argued that specific, targeted feedback from a writing coach is the most important part of becoming a better writer. But it’s also important that writers target their own challenge areas; to consider and identify what they have done well before receiving feedback and moving to revision.
It’s also important for the writer to consider and identify what they have done well before receiving feedback and moving toward revision. The first question gives them a moment to reflect on a draft’s accomplishments; the second spurs them to make their writing even stronger.