I love when Shipka articulates the value and importance of asking students to determine the purpose and context of the work they produce and the action steps to get there. As Shipka says, familiar and straightforward objectives can be accomplished in a variety of ways–why limit students with a list of nonnegotiable steps? Having students explain in writing why they made the choices they did is also key to the process and a smart way of reinforcing alphabetic writing in the service of a larger goal. Shipka also makes a convincing argument for the benefits of asking students to articulate their goals and processes explicitly. She notes that the expectation of producing such highly detailed accounts discourages students from producing rushed/thoughtless responses to tasks.
I’ve been visiting a lot of museums in Santa Fe recently, and I am able to understand and value pieces that come with a description of what the author was trying to accomplish with their work so much more than the pieces that come with just a title. Of course, part of the experience of looking at art is the effect that the piece has on the audience, regardless of the artists’ intent, but I always find it helpful and more interesting to know what they were trying to communicate because then I can think about the degree to which they were successful. Similarly, Shipka points out that by asking students to write up their goals, choices and processes, instructors can frame their responses to students’ work in efficient, purposeful, and constructive way (291). I know from my own teaching experience that even with purely alphabetic writing, it would often be helpful if students defined for me upfront what their goal is so that I can respond appropriately in my feedback. Often, I feel that I can give better feedback to students who have met with me during office hours because I know what their general idea was and how well they did or didn’t succeed in communicate that, versus trying to guess.