How Technology Can Enhance Writing Instruction at Georgetown

Maggie Debelius (English/Writing Program), Matthew Pavesich (English/Writing Program) · Round 1

The Georgetown Writing and Culture Seminar (WCS) teaches first-year students to write adaptively, fluently, clearly, and effectively through writing-intensive courses. To better achieve these goals, WCS faculty have begun to relocate two course components—research instruction and peer review—to online platforms. For this ITEL project, English faculty members Maggie Debelius and Matthew Pavesich investigated how technology could enhance writing instruction at Georgetown. Debelius taught two sections of first year writing in Fall 2013, one with digital modules and one without, while Pavesich taught one section of HUMW 011 using digital modules.

We learned the importance of staying focused on student learning rather than the technology itself. It's important to remember that the technology is a tool rather than an end itself.

Maggie Debelius & Matthew Pavesich

This project sought to answer two primary questions: 1) What are the effects of moving peer review of writing online? Would this move affect students' approach and attitude toward peer review? Would this move affect student writing outcomes? and 2) What is the impact of delivering library research instruction online rather than face-to-face?

The results from the project, implemented in Fall 2013, suggest that moving peer review online can both enhance student learning and free up class time for other kinds of activities. Student learning data were gathered through scoring students' writing with rubrics, conducting pre- and post-surveys about online peer review to gauge its impacts, and comparing grades of final research projects across course sections. Key findings from this project include that students spend more time on online peer review than face-to-face peer review, students who tried a variety of online programs preferred Google Docs for online peer editing, and students in the online peer review class sections indicated that their confidence as writers and belief in the effectiveness of peer review increased from the beginning of the course to the end. Because of the positive results from this project, Debelius and Pavesich will use online peer review in future Writing and Culture Seminars, and they have presented their findings to other Writing and Culture Seminar faculty.


Debelius, Maggie. "How Technology Can Enhance Writing Instruction at Georgetown." Presented at the Teaching, Learning & Innovation Summer Institute, Georgetown University, DC, May 2014.

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