ETAP 655L: Perspectives on Teaching Composition in the Secondary School
Spring, 2008

Guidelines for Summary/Response Paper and Roundtable Discussion










Summary/Response Paper

Leading Class Discussion

Reflection on the Assignment

Submission Guidelines




The primary purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to engage in a careful, thoughtful, critical reading of an article-length text focused on an issue of importance in the teaching of writing. Your engagement with this article is intended to contribute to our collective inquiry into the teaching of writing. For this assignment, you will write a paper on an assigned article and lead a roundtable discussion about the article. In effect, you will become the expert on this article in a way that will facilitate our engagement with the author's ideas or arguments.

This assignment has three main components:

  1. writing a summary/response paper focused on an assigned reading;
  2. leading a discussion of the reading in your roundtable group;
  3. writing a brief reflection on the discussion and on your paper.

Each of these components is described on this page.

A sign-up sheet for this assignment will be distributed during the second week of the semester. Please familiarize yourself with the course readings, which are listed on the course schedule. (You can also find a list of course readings by clicking the appropriate link on the navigation bar on the left-hand side of this page.)

Summary/Response Paper

Your summary/response paper should contain (1) a succinct and accurate summary of the main ideas presented in the article and (2) a response in which you engage those ideas for the purpose of enhancing our understanding of teaching writing. Your response to this article may focus on questions or issues that were raised for you by the article, or you might extend the author's argument or analysis in some way, perhaps by connecting the author's ideas to your own experiences or to our class discussions. Or you may wish to complicate or take issue with one of the main points in the article.

Whatever your approach, keep in mind that your purpose is not to agree, disagree, or criticize but to engage in a careful examination of the author's ideas in a way that might deepen our understanding of the issues at hand.

Leading the Roundtable Discussion.

As noted on the course requirements page, each student in the class will be assigned to a roundtable group. These groups will convene five times during the semester for the purpose of engaging in careful, substantive discussion of the assigned readings. Each roundtable discussion will be led by the group member who signed up to write a summary-response paper for that week. In other words, when you sign up for summary/response paper, you are also signing up to lead your roundtable group discussion about your selected reading for that week. Each member of your roundtable group will lead one discussion during the course of the semester. (The dates for the five roundtable discussions are listed on the course schedule.)

You should not think of leading your roundtable discussion as a formal in-class presentation; rather, your task is to facilitate discussion of the issues that emerge from the article. Your summary/response paper should be the starting point for the discussion, but you should feel free to pursue any issues and questions related to the article that you find relevant.

The roundtable discussions should follow this general format:

  • Before the discussion begins, each roundtable group member should offer a brief reaction to the summary/response paper focused on the following questions:

    1. What general reaction do you have to your classmate's response to the assigned reading? Do you generally agree with your classmate's take on the article? Why or why not?
    2. Is your classmate's summary of the article accurate? If not, what's missing or misleading?
    3. What suggestions for revision do you have for your classmate?
  • Once group members have finished their responses, the discussion leader should pursue questions or issues raised by the group members and introduce other relevant issues or questions.

  • At the end of the discussion, the discussion leader should be prepared to offer a brief report of the group's discussion to the whole class.

Expect the roundtable discussions to take 45-60 minutes of class time. After they are finished, the discussion leader will briefly report on the group discussion to the whole class, and (time allowing) we will discuss the assigned articles as a large group.

Peer Responses to Summary/Response Papers. As part of the roundtable process, each member of the roundtable group is required to submit to the author of the summary/response paper for that week a brief written response, which is to be posted to the roundtable group's BLS forum by Tuesday (that is, the day of the roundtable discussion). These peer responses should include the following:

  • a reaction to the writer's summary of the assigned reading (Is the summary accurate? Is it sufficient to capture what you consider to be the main ideas and/or arguments of the assigned reading? Is anything important missing from the summary?);

  • a reaction to the student writer's response to the assigned reading (Does the student writer's response extend the issues raised in the assigned reading sufficiently? Has the student writer explored important implications of the reading for our understanding of teachers and teaching? What was your own response to the reading?)

  • relevant comments about the reading that the author of the summary/response paper might not have addressed in the paper;

  • any specific suggestions for revision that you might have for the student writer.

The student who wrote the summary/response paper for that week can use these written peer responses as he or she revises the summary/response paper for submission to the instructor.

Each student will write a peer response for each summary/response paper (excluding his or her own) that is discussed in his or her roundtable group. That will mean writing three or four such peer responses during the semester, depending upon the number of students in your roundtable group.

Please note that these peer responses will not be graded individually by the course instructors; however, they will be part of the grade for participation for this course. (See the course grading policies for more information about the participation grade.)

Reflection on the Assignment

When you submit your final revised version of your summary response paper, you should also include a brief written reflection in which you discuss your roundtable discussion and any influence it might have had on your understanding of your assigned article or on your revisions to your summary/response paper. In effect, you should try to address the question of what you learned through the process of completing the various components of this assignment.

This reflection need not be lengthy--a paragraph or two will be sufficient. You can include your reflection at the end of your revised summary/response paper.

Submission Guidelines

Length. The summary/response paper should not exceed 1000 words in length. Please keep in mind that this length requirement is inflexible. Since all roundtable group members will be reading the summary/response papers in advance of the roundtable discussion--in addition to the assigned readings--it will be important to keep the length manageable.

Format. All summary/response papers will be posted to your roundtable group forum on the course BLS site, where they will be available for all members of your roundtable group to read prior to the class meeting for that week.

Your final revised version should be posted to your roundtable group forum on BLS by Friday of the week you led the roundtable discussion.


Your summary/response papers should be posted to the course WebCT site on the Sunday before the class meeting on which the reading you have signed up for is scheduled to be discussed.

Revised versions of your paper should be submitted by posting the paper to your roundtable group forum on BLS by the Friday following your roundtable discussion. This timetable will give you a few days to make any revisions to your paper after the roundtable discussion of your article.


This assignment is worth 25% of your final grade for the course and will be assigned a letter grade (A-F). Your summary/response paper will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Accuracy of your summary. Your summary of your assigned article should be succinct, readable, and accurate, highlighting the main idea or argument the author is making and including the key ideas or points the author raises.

  • Substance of your response. Your response to your assigned article should engage the author's main issue or argument in a substantive way that enhances our understanding of the article and connects the article's ideas to our ongoing course inquiry into teaching writing. You should not merely raise a series of questions or criticize the author, nor should you simply agree or disagree with the author's position. Rather, if you raise question about the author's views, discuss your questions in a way that helps us see their value. Similarly, if you see problems with the author's position, explain those problems in a way that will advance our understanding of the issue rather than simply pointing out flaws or disagreements you might have. Above all, remember that we are not reading these articles in order to find ideas we agree with or to criticize those we disagree with; rather, we are reading them to deepen our understanding of the complexities of teaching writing.

  • Quality of your writing. Your summary/response paper should be clearly written and well organized, with few surface errors.