Another approach would be to simply repeat “the student,” but “ask the student to describe the student’s purpose and audience and show how the student has taken them into account in the student’s writing” doesn’t sound very good.
The writer could have used plural forms, like “respond as a reader, explaining what you were thinking as you read their texts so that they can discover where a reader might struggle with their writing,” but that sentence doesn’t capture the emphasis on one-on-one conversation between writing coach and writer.
The English language provides pronoun options for references to masculine nouns (for example, “he” can substitute for “Juan”), feminine nouns (“she” can replace “Keisha”), and neutral/non-human nouns (“it” can stand in for “a tree”).
But English offers no widely-accepted pronoun choice for gender-neutral, third-person singular nouns that refer to people (“the writer,” “a student,” or “someone”).
Putting the masculine form first is more conventional; “she or he” may distract readers but does make the point that women are not just being added onto the generic “he.” Here are some examples: While this solution specifically includes women and men and works well in many situations, some readers find it stylistically awkward, especially when “she or he” or “she/he” is repeated many times throughout a piece of writing.
Also, by going out of its way to refer to multiple genders, this approach risks calling attention to gender in situations where it’s not relevant.
It’s worth knowing that many female faculty and staff (including married women) prefer to be addressed as “Ms.” or, if the term applies, “Professor” or “Dr.” Writers sometimes refer to women using only their first names in contexts where they would typically refer to men by their full names, last names, or titles.
But using only a person’s first name is more informal and can suggest a lack of respect.
A simple alternative when addressing or referring to a woman is “Ms.” (which doesn’t indicate marital status).
Another note about titles: some college students are in the habit of addressing most women older than them, particularly teachers, as “Mrs.,” regardless of whether the woman in question is married.