As far as weighing content vs. structure, my preference has been to separate the types of errors students can make into 3 distinct categories: formatting, global, local
A.P.A. formatting essentially has nothing to do with the challenges of writing a proper essay, and so should be weighed independently of content and structure. In addition, since there is no ambiguity with formatting, i.e., while a student may argue the relevance of a supporting sentence, the student cannot argue the font size or presence of citations, the grading/penalizing of formatting mistakes should be quite straightforward. While at SolBridge, once a student is introduced to the concept of one universal formatting model for writing essays and citing sources (hopefully early), they should be held to that standard until the day of their graduation. In my opinion, the more uniform instructors are in expecting/reinforcing proper A.P.A. formatting, the more consistent students will be in using it.
Global errors should be prioritized above local. Time is always limited, especially when it comes to giving feedback on one essay among many or offering guidance at the writing center. With that in mind, it is counter-productive to tackle sentence level mistakes within sentences which may end up not belonging in the essay once the assignment’s expectations and essay organization are taken into account. Likewise, students should focus on essay/paragraph wide concerns before turning to sentence level concerns themselves. If we prioritize our marks on global aspects, students will naturally follow suit. It is a poor writing mentor who points to a tense error in the introduction before he has even established assignment expectations or absorbed the general content of the essay.
Local errors can be addressed once formatting ceases to be an obstacle and global issues are minimal. Aside from student capable issues, only repeat grammatical errors benefit from attention....
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