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DSP from the Student Perspective

One of the most valuable features of the University of Michigan’s DSP process is that it extends instruction beyond the classroom and begins teaching students about the expectations of college-level writing before they even arrive on campus. Incoming students are required to complete the online portion of DSP at least five business days before their scheduled orientation session. From the student perspective, the DSP process includes the following steps:

  1. Proceed to the DSP for Writing website for further instructions.
  2. Read the DSP instructions and essay prompt.
  3. Read the DSP article.
  4. Compose a 1200-1500 word essay in response to the prompt.
  5. Upload the essay to the DSP for Writing website (see step 1 above).
  6. Answer the DSP for Writing self-assessment questions.
  7. Receive and discuss a writing placement recommendation with an advisor at orientation.
  8. Discuss or work with the DSP essay in some way in the students' first writing course at U-M.

The DSP instructions that students receive includes the following:

  • Your instructor for your first U-M writing course will read your essay in order to learn about your writing, and to help you progress as a writer in college.

For many students, this promise that their future instructor will read their work and provide some kind of feedback is what motivates them to put their best effort into the essay. Students sometimes feel disappointed or frustrated when they work hard on an essay and receive no indication from their instructor that their writing has been read. Students have expressed these reactions in surveys conducted by Sweetland in comments like the following:

  • I actually did outside research and wrote an informed paper, but not once has the essay been addressed since I've set foot on campus.
  • The essay I wrote was not brought up by my teacher so I do not even know if he read it or not.
  • I think if our teacher addressed the papers we had written and gave us feedback on those I would feel that they had been more worthwhile. My teacher never once mentioned this paper.
  • It was sort of annoying that I did the essay, but then did not really receive any feedback on it from my advisor or from my teacher. It was like I did it for nothing.
  • The research paper I was asked to do was not brought up at all by teacher in Eng. 125, and I thought it was misleading how the DSP Essay Instructions said they would be used by our teachers.

As these quotes suggest, when the connection between assessment and instruction is not made, students see the DSP process as irrelevant or even disingenuous. It is therefore very important that first-year writing instructors find ways to integrate students’ DSP essays into the their in-class activities, assignments, or conferences/office hours. Learn more about how to use the DSP essay in your classroom.