Readers in the Field

Cary A. Moskovitz, Senior Lecturing Fellow and director, Writing in the Disciplines
University Writing Program

Project Description

Cary Moskovitz has been using the concept of “think aloud” responses in his writing courses, getting professionals in various fields at Duke to record comments and feedback on student papers. Students gain valuable insight from a reader familiar with the subject area of the paper and gain a better sense of ownership of their writing in a “real world” situation.

To build on the success of this approach in his own courses, Moskovitz is cooperated with the Duke Alumni Association to introduce this method into Writing in the Disciplines courses, by locating Duke alumni residing around the United States to serve as readers in three classes in Economics, History and Chemistry in Spring 2008.

During Fall 2007, Moskovitz used CIT funding to explore the technologies which will be used to implement the full project in Spring 2008. From fifty alumni applicants, twenty were paired with Duke students.  Readers used a webcam-assisted teleconference to virtually “meet” with their student partners, and web-based audio recording software to record a “think aloud” response on a student paper in the course. Students used the readers’ feedback to edit and improve their writing based on this professional input. The CIT consulted on technology approaches, documentation for the volunteer readers and students, and evaluation of the project.

The main challenges encountered during the project were recruitment of alumni readers with expertise that matched the student papers and with technology problems encountered by some users.  Using Wimba for recording of responses was successful, but some users had difficulty configuring and setting up the webcams or Skype account for the project.  Reactions to use of video for the project were mixed, with some users finding it more efficient to talk with students by phone and others reporting that it added a meaningful dimension to their interactions with the students.

Project Started: 8/15/2007
Funding: $5,000 total (Fall 2007, Spring 2008)