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Open Access Publications from the University of California

When Pragmatics Precede Pedagogy: Process Theories of Assessment and Response to Student Writing

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This article describes a hybrid, first-year composition program--part online instruction and part classroom instruction--that relies on anonymous assessment and response to student writing. Writing program administrators (WPAs) at Texas Tech University designed this program largely in answer to budgetary constraints to handle ever-increasing student populations and stagnant departmental funding. I examine the precarious balance between university pragmatics and classroom pedagogy, suggesting that when faced with budgetary restrictions, composition programs should not let the economic and pragmatic question of how teachers assess and respond to student writing precede the more important question of why: Why do we grade and respond to student writing? While both how and why we grade and respond to student writing remain important, this article considers how university administrators, WPAs, and instructors might keep the why center stage by engaging in productive, proactive dialogue using what Porter et al. (2000) call "rhetorical action," for "engaging in situated theorizing and relating that theorizing through stories of change and attempted change" (p. 631).

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