Writing Workshop Overview

Donna Reiss
Active Learning Online

This detailed procedure was developed primarily for completely online classes and for students who might never meet face to face with each other or with me. However, this Writing Workshop process originated with in-class peer draft exchanges twenty years ago, before my students or I had personal computers. The workshop evolved for hybrid classes that met regularly in person and engaged in selected online activities, at first using internal networks in computer classrooms and later using the Internet. The individual reflections and personal correspondence among students helped students gain confidence as writers and respondents as the semester progressed. The stages listed here are purposely broad and generic and can be adapted for a variety of composing projects in a variety of disciplines and for classes that meet in person or online or in mixed modes.

The procedure is meant to resemble the way scholars prepare an article for publication in a journal. My purpose is not to prepare students for scholarly publication but to engage them in a purposeful, shared composing process that encourages attention to their own rhetorical strategies as they attend to the language and presentation features of their classmates. Although the steps of this process are mechanical—many online students benefit from detailed steps they can use as checklists—they also are reflective and encourage revision. Educators are welcome to use and adapt any elements of these guidelines.

Stages of the Writing Workshop
  1. Prospectus: A short description of their preliminary project plans asks students to focus on their topics, goals, and process; invites feedback from classmates; and receives comments from the teacher.
  2. Edited Review Draft: Students are encouraged to develop and format their draft as if it were a final submission in order to practice the format conventions of the discipline or genre as well as to allow readers of the work in progress to review the composition in the context of its design or presentation features.
  3. Letter of Invitation To Review Draft: Students submit their drafts as file attachments to a class bulletin board or discussion list. A 250-350-word letter invites feedback and encourages students to identify their own rhetorical strategies as well as ask reviewers specific questions.
  4. Feedback Letter: Each student composes a substantial response (350-500 words) to one or more classmates' drafts. This stage helps students read drafts critically and recognize the importance of feedback and collaboration in the writing process. Some feedback from the teacher is advisable as well, in particular for undergraduates. I write a short note to each student or a letter to the entire class or both.
  5. Revision Period: For most projects, I allow a week after feedback for students to revise further and prepare a final version. I suggest selected Revision Strategies.
  6. Reflection-Submission Letter: Along with or a day or two after their final submission, students compose a letter in which they describe their rhetorical strategies and the rewards and challenges of the project as well as ways they responded to feedback and to revision time.

Active Learning Online
for educational purposes only
developed and copyright ©2001 by
D. Reiss
modified and copyright ©April 24, 2007 by
D. Reiss