Revisions for Student Writing: The Proverbial Egg

photo of brown egg

In an earlier blog, we reviewed the chicken and egg dilemma: Which came first, with the argument presented that it was the chicken. Well, here’s the egg. Once feedback is provided, the obvious expectation is what to do with it. Presumably, students would take the feedback and make revisions. This model, often referred to as ‘process or strategy writing’ is based on a relatively structured set of stages or phases in which an outline may be used to structure a sloppy copy, followed by more formalized drafts, and finally a final draft. Teachers may incorporate any number of stages/phases. In the end, writing is taught from both ends of students’ response: Initially to explicitly structure their writing and then, through revisions, shape it with feedback.

Steve Graham and Dolores Perin [1]completed a meta-analysis about a decade ago and reported their findings in a highly cited journal. Basically, a meta-analysis provides a scientific method for documenting individual studies and then classifying them in several ways to combine the outcomes and report the findings in a uniform metric. This system of summarizing outcomes results in a value (an effect size or ES) that ranges from .00 to 1.50 (though these extreme end points are rarely found). This value represents the change in the distribution of student outcomes that teachers can expect with the intervention. In this graph, the blue line represents the intervention and the red line the control group (no intervention).

A value of 1.0 would mean that teachers would see students (with the intervention) move from the 50th percentile rank (PR) to the 84th PR. This particular value is HUGE and would be the gold standard. 

Although a number of different interventions for teaching were compared in this meta-analysis, we focus only on one: strategy instruction. As they note, “Strategy instruction involves directly and explicitly teaching students how to independently use strategies for planning, revising, and/or editing text. We calculated 20 effect sizes for strategy instruction” (p. 462). All 20 of the effect sizes were positive and the average weighted effect size was large (0.82).

In the WRN ecosystem, this process of planning, revising, and editing is encouraged by having teachers first allow this option (in Settings, clicking on Revisions). Then, when students are assigned a prompt, it is submitted and when reviewed by the teacher (with feedback and comments inserted), ‘Revision Submit’ is selected to send the draft back to the student. On both the teacher and student view of the response, a tab is presented for reviewing the drafts developmentally (sequentially). This process is repeatedly deployed until the draft is graded, at which time, the response is labeled as graded.

[1] Graham, S. & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal of Educational Psychology99(3), 445-476.