Thursday, April 19, 2012

Request for Advice on How To Do Student Conferences in 15 Minutes Flat

The week after next, I'll be holding individual conferences for the two sections of my composition/argument class. In order to fit all of the students in (leaving time open for classes and all of my meetings for the ongoing college crisis), I've had to set the student conferences at just 15 minutes.

In the past, I have always allotted 20 minutes for conferences, and even 20 minutes often seemed too short.

I'm sure I need to approach the conferences a bit differently than I usually do in order to bang them out in 14-15 minutes. Before each student arrives, I will have read the first three pages of his or her research paper and an outline of the entire paper. I'll write some written feedback beforehand that students will be able to take with them.

For those of you who are good at finishing one-on-one writing conferences in 15 minutes or less, please give me some advice!


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Having a clear purpose is the only way to get the conferences done in 15 minutes. This week, I've met with all three of my sections of my intro class for their final papers. The conferences have all be 15 minutes flat, and the reason I've been able to manage that is because I've had two simple goals: 1. make sure they have a clear, argumentative thesis, 2. make sure that they have supporting examples from the text and at least two sources. For the people who are on top of it, that means you can have a five minute conference. For the people who struggle, you'll use every bit of your fifteen minutes. Then, you run out of time and say, "We have to stop, but go work on this some more and if you have questions, email me about it."

That's the way I've handled it, and it's gone very well. It's freaking exhausting, but it's gone well. The people who need more help I've encouraged to go to the writing center and/or ask for more help after the rough draft is due on Monday. But their questions have to be ultra-specific in order for me to have time to address them.

For me, I've just had to prioritize the content problems I've seen in these classes, and it's come down to thesis and examples. If they have a good thesis, that's half the battle. The paper can be organized through discreet examples.

Good luck. Just remember - keep it simple. You can't solve all their writing problems in a day, so pick one or two priorities that you will hold every student accountable for, and then you'll be able to get through the meetings most efficiently. Hope it goes well!

baxie said...

put a giant kitchen timer on your desk, facing out. When it dings, scream


at the top of your lungs.

problem SOLVED!

feMOMhist said...

what Fie said, plus I hand them off to the writing center if they have serious composition errors (ahh the joys of being a history prof). I'm looking for thesis and primary source evidence normally, as I seldom assign research papers. Now sr thesis student meetings SIGH those run like 30-45 minutes, but I do them DURING seminar time while other stus are working. NO WAY to schedule those outside of class. [sigh do I HAVE to go back after sabbatical?]

Good Enough Woman said...

Fie, I think structure and simplicity are key! Thanks for the specific tips. Unfortunately, our writing center got slashed with budget cuts. :(

Baxter, That is a good tactic to keep in mind when the stus get too chatty or keep asking more questions (of all things).

fMh, See above about writing center. These are all research papers--more aptly called "documented arguments." I'll probably need to focus on thesis, overall org pattern, and fair attention to opposing arguments. But that might be too much. Or maybe I can say, "I'm going to talk for 5 minutes, and the rest of the time is yours to ask questions" (until the timer goes off and I start screaming.)

Cyn said...

What Fie said, plus I always save a few minutes at the end to ask them to tell me about their more pressing concern or question about the paper so we can address that, too.

Cyn said...

Um, I mean MOST pressing.

Not "more."

Yeah--trapped in end of term maelstrom right now. Brain flooded.

Send candy. Stat.

C. Troubadour said...

Seconding (or thirding, really) what Fie said. I also remind students ahead of time how I will structure the meeting so they know what we are expected to accomplish together in that time -- it never helps if they think you're going to troubleshoot an entire paper for them. I actually had a student ask me in a meeting to write down what I was saying on his draft for him. Blew my mind.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Re C.T. - I always write down what I'm saying on their draft because I know they aren't capable of listening for more than a minute at a time to writing criticism. Probably too much hand holding on my part, but I actually want them to do what I'm saying. :-/

Lorean Hartness said...

I email three or four global comments before conferences begin, then I can address their specific concerns about those comments at the conference. Granted it takes time to email the comments, but I compose the email as I read the draft. The process seems to be more effective than marking on their papers, which I rarely do anymore. I'm seeing more global revisions and better papers, since I've changed my approach, and my conferences are generally around ten minutes.