How will the Reader Project benefit your students?

Students often have difficulty imagining how readers will react to their written work since they rarely hear from someone actually trying to make use of what they’ve written. By taking our students’ written work seriously and providing thoughtful feedback, our volunteers can help students learn to “write to be read.”  We’ve also found that having an interested and respected reader from outside the class can be a great source of motivation for students.

Who really volunteers to be a reader?

Even in the short time since we started this project, we’ve gotten a remarkable set of volunteer readers. We currently have over 550 readers in our volunteer pool, and the list is growing.  Here’s a sample:

Alumni: Students taking an American business history course got to work with a lawyer specializing in immigration, labor and employment litigation, the executive editor of CIO Magazine, a freelance journalist specializing in business, and a lawyer specializing in banking and other financial services. In an economics course on international trade and development, a student writing a paper on former USSR countries got feedback from an alum who helped form businesses in the former Soviet Union and served as chief of mission for the International City/County Management Association office in Kazakhstan, while another student in the course worked with the World Bank’s country program coordinator for Vietnam.

Duke employees: Students in a first-year writing class taking up current issues in diet and nutrition science got feedback on their papers from the Director of the Rice Diet Center, the Director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, and the Associate Director of Graduate Medical Education, among others. Students in a computer science course got comments on a draft of a programmer’s manual from OIT’s Director of Interactive Teaching Resources, the computer support specialist for the Academic Advising Center, and an Associate Dean for Information Technology. See more examples of readers

How does this work?

The Reader Project staff guide students and readers through the series of interactions and coordinate the timing of the interactions with the course instructors. The Office of Alumni Affairs helps to solicit readers and to match students to readers with appropriate backgrounds.

What kind of feedback will my students get?

Depending on the type of project, we suggest three main interactions between students and readers: (1) the introductory meeting, (2) exchange of draft and feedback, and (3) a follow-up exchange of revised draft and feedback. Readers are encouraged to give written comments on substantial drafts, but also use a kind of oral feedback called a “think-aloud response.”

What do instructors need to do?

Instructors who sign up with the Reader Project for the upcoming semester will work with Cary Moskovitz, Director of Writing in the Disciplines, to decide which assignment is the best fit for the project, to figure out the timing and the kinds of reader backgrounds and expertise needed, and designate some best practices for the type of feedback you’d like the readers to give your students. If you know of Duke alumni or employees who would make good readers, you may give us their contact information or invite them yourself and ask that they contact us to sign up.

Once the course begins, we will visit the course to give students information about the project and invite them to sign up. Because of your perspective on student projects, we will ask you to help assign the best student/reader matches. There will be little more for instructors to do related to the Reader Project during the semester, aside from helping remind students to keep up with their commitment. When the term is over, instructors will be asked to give feedback. That’s it!

If you would like to sign up one of your courses for the Reader Project, or if you want more information, contact Cary Moskovitz at cmosk@duke.edu.

The Duke Reader Project has been generously supported by the Jean T. and Heyward G. Pelham Foundation.