Are Teachers Wasting Their Time Teaching Styles?

As I grade a seemingly never ending pile of essays a question continues to pop into my mind. How much time am I wasting teaching students to use the proper formatting style? How much time are they wasting trying to make sure that their essay adheres to this style. How many points are taken off if the style is incorrect even if the content is good? Shouldn’t we be redirecting this energy into teaching students how to make a good argument in their papers? Don’t online tools such as Citation Machine or BibMe make the memorization of formatting obsolete? I look forward to other teachers’ opinions on this.

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3 thoughts on “Are Teachers Wasting Their Time Teaching Styles?

  1. I stopped teaching how to write a proper bibliography entry after student teaching. Honestly, the only person I know who had all of the different semicolons and minutia memorization was a graduate English professor who may have been a savant in hindsight. Bibme is an awesome tool; it has worked for every URL and ISBN I’ve tried; it is my favorite of the tools. I think we should redirect that energy into teaching why giving credit is important and on guiding the students on how not to plagiarize when it has become so easy to do so.

  2. I also teach citations and proper quotation techniques but have never questioned doing it. Sure there are online tools that handle creating citations (which I use myself to speed up the process for a few citations and to make sure they’re perfect) but I think there’s something to be said for knowing how to do it and why it’s done a certain way. When they get to college and have to do a couple dozen citations in a final paper (whether it’s in English class, Psych class or whatever) it’s helpful to be able to run them down quickly without having to type in every piece of information into a citation engine over and over again. Or think about a thesis in grad school with 50 or more citations.

    Plus, teaching citations doesn’t have to take a long time if you give them a handout with examples. Then they have something to refer back to when in doubt and you don’t have to spend two weeks having them practice citations everyday. There’s no reason style and citations can’t be taught together.

  3. Todd Wandio says:

    I agree, using exemplars, and having the students work with you to construct a clear rubric should eliminate much of the time you spend on abulafia. I think that form and content is most important for Literary essays, but perhaps less so in Social Studies. However, there must be some attention paid to making writing coherent, to communicating a message to the reader.

    Thank you for your blog. It has been a pleasure reading them this year.

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