Enhancing the Revision Process

WRIT015: Self-Fashioning: Performance and Technology is an introductory course that builds on the Department of Performing Arts' investment in an interdisciplinary liberal arts education that teaches students to write in various forms including: academic, creative, editorial, and biographical for print and digital platforms. The course is capped at and contained 15 students this semester.

The project considered how revision functions in student writing. This semester, I introduced a series of short assignments that students completed in advance of their longer papers in order to build the parts of the essay. Half of the assignments focus on description and the other half focus on analysis. Students have the choice of incorporating the language from the shorter assignments into the longer essay or to discard the preliminary writing and start from scratch. All assignments in the course are submitted via blackboard, offering the opportunity to track student writing. The feedback for the short assignments was given using the comments function in Microsoft Word.

My project sought to see if giving students feedback at each stage of writing enhanced the revision process as a larger part of the writing process.

Using the revision process, students incorporated the comments and feedback on their writing into the final drafts. Generally, I give feedback on final essays for students to incorporate the comments into the next assignment. In previous semester although the assignments are the same (i.e. write an argument based five-page essay about the assigned material), the material that serves as the basis for each assignment changes. In this case, the material for each assignment remained the same over a series of three assignments. As such, students had the opportunity to think with the material for a sustained period of time and see how their attention to revision informed the final drafts.

In teaching writing, I often find that I have to repeat the same comments on a student's work throughout the semester. For example, I may make exactly the same comment on the final drafts of essay one and two with the hope of seeing the student incorporate the feedback in the third of four essays. In the process this semester, students incorporated comments from the short assignments into the final essays, enabling the students writing skills to improve from one essay to the next.

Giving students consistent feedback at the interim stages of writing rather than just on final drafts enables greater improvement in writing. This semester, I had a TA that helped with the grading of the shorter assignments. Without her help, I would not have been able to respond to the volume of writing. When I teach the class again if I do not have a TA, I may consider offering substantive feedback on shorter assignments and drafts and shorter comments on final papers.