Not Getting Results From Editing Student Work?

My enthusiasm for grading papers waned the first year of teaching when I was faced with 70 papers to grade each week. I noticed that the correcting I was doing was not making a difference in my students’ growth in writing.

I needed to make a change to motivate my students to notice their own errors, make the corrections, and subsequently translate those corrections into improved compositions. A reaction of one student had regarding her first poor grade provided me with what I as hoping to find. She looked at her paper and began to cry. After probing, I found she had never received anything less than an "A-" on any paper. To go home with anything less than an “A” would mean she would be grounded for a month. I offered to give her the option to improve her grade by making the corrections and reworking her composition.

Whenever I offer an option to one student, I make the same offer to the other students. The results were amazing. The time I put into editing and the time they spent revising their composition improved their future writings. They had the motivation to critically look at my editings and resubmit their work.

One key component of this approach is students must understand why the corrections need to be made. Just making corrections and rewriting after the teacher has edited will not have a lasting impact on future work, so I added one step to the revision process. When students submitted their revised piece, they also had to include a separate page describing why the corrections made were necessary. For example, if quotation marks were missing, students told why they were needed. It looked something like this,”I need quotation marks because this is the title of a short story.” 

Offering the option for a grade improvement has been the key motivator in getting the students to learn from their errors. If I give the grade after making corrections without the option of improving one’s grade, I can guarantee few students would ever look at their errors. In many cases, they will throw the composition away if it is anything less than an "A" paper. My time will be wasted, and they won't learn how to grow as learners.


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