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RTFC/RTFS

barclay_barrios
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[Note to self: don’t write blog posts while grading!]  Yes, I am commenting on student papers, which brings up all sorts of issues for me (frustration is probably at the top of the list).  I’m going to express that frustration as RTFC / RTFS, both of which are variations on RTFM which you can google (or bing, though “bing” hasn’t yet achieved verb status) to decode. More specifically, I am grading electronically using Word’s comment and track changes features.  I love grading this way for oodles of reasons but for now I want to focus on just one: history.  Having students’ previous papers allows me to open up the last paper as I look at the current one, reviewing my comments to see how they’ve progressed—well, more accurately, to see how they have not progressed. I’ve just finished another student paper in which the student didn’t seem to pay any attention to my comments on the last paper, which is to say that the student is making the same sort of mistakes this time around.  I’ve always intuitively known that students get papers back and lock onto that one letter at the end that represents the grade.  I had hoped to get them to focus on the actual comments this time by doing a class exercise in which they read the comments on their last paper and summarized what they needed to do for their next paper.  I thought that would help.  It didn’t.  RTFC! [Side note: it’s not just comments that students seem to avoid reading.  I constantly get emails with questions like “What’s due next class?” when the answers are all sitting on the syllabus.  RTFS!] It’s frustrating on at least two levels.  First, if students won’t read my comments they won’t know where to focus for the next paper.  Second, if students won’t read my comments then why do I spend hours writing them?  It’s probably this last which prompts my RTFC response. In any case, how do you get students to read, digest, understand, respond to your comments?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.