Why Revising Works



One of the core tenets of our philosophy is that when students revise their writing will improve.

Study after study shows that when students are given the opportunity (or in some cases forced) to revise their work, they will learn the material better.

This works in part because students continuously have to review their writing and course material. In turn, students end up pounding the information into their brain.

For example, in a recent Organizational Behavior course students were ask to write a comprehensive essay about one topic covered during the unit. The paper was to be reviewed once by a peer and then later by the instructor. The unit covered a variety of topics about organizational decision making. One student decided to write about groupthink and the repercussions it has in the work place. Her paper was of decent quality, but not stupendous. When it came to the test, however, she nailed every question that was even tangentially related to groupthink. The other material covered on the test she answered at about 75% accuracy.

As you can tell, the topic she chose to write on was the topic she remembered most when test time came. This works because students are going back and making sure their writing is succinct, coherent and generally of good quality and in turn the material sinks in.

This concept is pretty simple, but sometimes it’s easy to forget and abandon revisions or even writing all together in the classroom.

That being said allowing time for revisions and actually reviewing the revisions is one of the most time consuming processes in education. So the big question for us is how do we make sure we can use writing and revisions in the classroom without losing time for everything else?

How to Make Time for Revisions

The key to utilizing revisions is providing feedback. Certainly, each student is capable of reviewing their own work to help them revise, but many times it is helpful to get outside opinions. Here are a few ways to review student work:

  • Teacher Review: This requires you to personally go through each student submission and give personal remarks. This type of review provides high quality feedback to students, but also requires a large time investment.
  • Rubrics: Rubrics are a set of defined features that are present in a specific assignment. When using rubrics you are able to quickly analyze each student submission and give some quick generic feedback. This type of review provides lesser quality feedback to students; however, it does not require the same large time investment.
  • Sampling: If you offer multiple writing assignments throughout the semester you might consider doing teacher reviews for only half the class while the other half utilizes peer reviews. Then when the next assignment rolls around switch who you provide reviews for. This saves some time by allowing you to only review half the assignments; however, students might find it unfair that other peers are receiving more personal attention for certain assignments.
  • Peer Review: Peer reviews occur when you allow your students to assess each others writing. With peer reviews there is virtually no time commitment on your part, however, the feedback for students will be of varying quality and may not be accurate.
  • Lastly, we would be at fault not to mention or own product, SAGrader. SAGrader will give students immediate feedback on their writing assignments allowing them to make instant revisions. Most of the time commitment for a professor is up front when building the assignments. SAGrader also provides standardized feedback that does not happen with peer reviews.

Obviously, each type of review here has its pros and cons. The best way to make use of review is typically through some combination of these five techniques. This can be accomplished by partnering a high time commitment review process with a lower time commitment review process. This way you can get the best of both worlds. High quality writing reviews with a lesser time commitment than if you were forced to hand review each student submission.

This type of process is very similar to what we accomplish by using SAGrader.

The most important thing to remember is to allow students to utilize these reviews and revise their work. When students are allowed to revise, learning happens.

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