Helping students use feedback
Even after they’ve received feedback in the form of written comments or a conference, many students do not know what to do next with their writing. While it can feel like students have simply ignored our comments when they submit subsequent drafts that look a lot like the earlier ones we’ve just commented on or that are completely different in ways that we did not talk about, it may rather be the case that our students were stumped about how to put our suggestions for revision into practice. So, what can we do to help students use our feedback more effectively the next time around?
Revision can seem like an abstract and distant process. Modeling it allows students to visualize what we mean when we talk about revision and what we can achieve from the work involved with it. To model revision, consider creating a “mash-up” paragraph from various student papers that illustrates some of the areas you found yourself commenting on regularly in a set of drafts. Include your marginal comments. In class, you can distribute these paragraphs to small groups or project the paragraph and your comments in front of everyone. With you or with their small groups, students should “apply” your comments to the text in the paragraph and decide how and where to address your concerns and improve the paragraph. Have small groups present their findings to the class, or talk through all of the steps with students as you revise together on the board, “showing your work.”
After students have seen revision happen, you might ask them to narrate their own revision processes in the form of a revision memo. Bryan Anthony Bardine and Anthony Fulton define revision memos and highlight what they make possible for college-level writers in a short article in Clearing House. Bardine and Fulton maintain that by asking students to “detail the strengths and weaknesses they see in [a] new draft, their revision focus for future drafts, and the particular changes they made to the current draft,” we encourage “students to critically analyze their own texts” and formalize self-regulation in writing (149). Revision memos also give us records of students’ processes, allowing us to identify where a student’s efforts may be breaking down. Bardine and Fulton argue that instructors should allow students to revise nearly every paper they write throughout a class, to give them plenty of opportunities to practice revision. While that may not be possible or practical in an already jam-packed quarter, revision memos can serve as a helpful complement for your students and for you just in your existing writing assignment sequences.
Bardine, Bryan Anthony and Anthony Fulton. “Analyzing the Benefits of Revision Memos during the Writing and Revision Process.” Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas 81.4 (2008): 149-154. Print.