I agree that forcing a college composition student to write 3 drafts because
an instructor requires them is stupid teaching. Also, it's unproductive in
terms of real learning.
I've been a professional writer for 49 years (teaching is 2nd career), with
19 books (8 currently in print & 5th ed. of one of them due out this month)
plus about 2000+ articles, so I know something about how writers work.
I don't care how lousy (or good) the first draft is. We talk a lot, though,
about a second go-around for revising--using a lot of tips from MLA on how
to revise effectively to communicate your meaning. We also talk a great deal
about how editors, managers, supervisors, and peers in the work world expect
virtual perfection on proofreading. I find the free and reproducible Purdue
University handouts (can be downloaded and given out freely, so long as
copyright info is included) are invaluable. I incorporate techniques used by
the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) in literacy
Are my "kids" good writers? Not necessarily. I think, however, demonstrating
early in the semester that the real world values clear thinking,
easy-to-understand communication, and an awareness of spelling and grammar
conventions doesn't hurt students.
I don't tell them they must turn in any certain number of drafts. I do
require that ALL work on a paper, including notes, scratch paper, false
starts, efforts at revision, etc. be included when a paper is turned in.
Frequently reviewing what a student has been trying to do--or
hasn't--provides the basis of a productive student conference.
remedial comp instructor, Roosevelt University's suburban Chicago campus