Dialogue around Written Work

Dialogue around Written Work refers to written and spoken comments on each installment of a project, revision in response to those comments, and comments on the revisions. What the advisor needs the advisee to hear (or the instructor needs the student to hear) to get them comfortable with this process:

“I try to create a dialogue with each advisee (student) around written work, that is, around your writing, my responses, and your responses in turn. For each submission I start with comments to show your voice has been heard and to reflect back where you were taking me. Then I make specific suggestions on how to clarify and extend the impact on readers of what was written. I usually ask you to revise and resubmit. The goal is not that you make changes to please me as the advisor (instructor) or to meet some unstated standard. Instead, it is that you as a writer use the eye of others to develop your own thinking and make your written exposition of that thinking work better on readers. I may continue to request revision when I judge that the interaction can still yield significant learning. Such a request does not mean your (re)submission was bad. Even when the first submission is excellent, angles for learning through dialogue are always opened up.”

“I hope my comments capture where you were taking me and that my suggestions help you see how to clarify and extend the impact on readers of what you have written. However, after letting my comments sink in, you may conclude that I have missed your point. In that case, let my misreading stimulate you to revise so as to help readers avoid mistaking the intended point. Of course, if you do not understand the directions I saw in your work or those that I suggest for the revision, a One-on-One Session is the obvious next step. We have to recognize the definite limitations of written comments when writers and readers want to appreciate and learn from what each other is saying and thinking. Indeed, please arrange a One-on-One Session without delay if you do not see how you are benefiting from the process of revision and resubmission.”

To students: “Dialogue around Written Work departs from most students' expectations of 'produce a product one time only: receive a grade.' I know that most students are at first uncomfortable exposing their work and engaging in extended dialogue over it. So I continue to look for ways to engage students in this process that take into account your various backgrounds and dispositions.”

When advisors (or instructors) assemble a portfolio of installments and comments, they can review these when making new comments. Even when they are not an expert in the project's topic, their comments are more likely to be generative, that is, to help advisees (students) to bring to the surface, form, and articulate ideas as researchers.