For instance, my tenth-grade English teacher had us write a research paper, and he graded very heavily on conventions. I think 50% of our grade was based on whether or not we followed APA format. According to the PowerPoint, conventions/grammar have a place in writing instruction, but they have a small place. Maybe conventions could be 5 or 10% of a grade, but 50%??
His instruction reminds me of a famous paper written by Constance Weaver. The link to it is here.
She reported on two groups of 11th graders: one of whom had intensive instruction on how to improve their grammar, and one of whom did not have intensive writing instruction. At the end of the year, guess which group wrote better papers?
That's right, the group who did NOT have the class on grammar. In this paper, Weaver writes: "the students' pre-course essays were not spectacular, their post-course essays were "miserable" and apparently "self-consciously constructed to honor correctness above all other virtues, including sense
No good. When we base half or all of our grades on spelling, subject/verb conjugation, and so forth, we teach our students that correctness is more important than voice, than a compelling argument, than solid reasoning, than all of the other characteristics that go into a quality piece.
So one of my big take-away messages this week was that conventions have a place in writing, but not the central place, contrary to how many teachers grade writing.