I find it ironic that every measure I have taken this semester to get out of doing work has resulted in better writing from my students.
Daily writing journals I never read = better writing. Homework I grade solely on whether it was turned in on time = better writing. Limiting my commenting on their rough drafts to ten minutes per paper = better writing. Using the rubric to give them a “grade so far” on the rough drafts and to target feedback, so I can limit commenting on their final drafts to five minutes per paper = better writing.
I’ve never before had a job where I got better results by doing less work. I’m sure this is because I’m doing less work in the “right” ways; if I tried to do less work by assigning less homework, for instance, the writing would certainly not be better.
The rough draft/final draft/rewrite process is my current focus. This semester, my students write a “rough draft,” to which I respond by “grading” it according to the rubric and targeting my comments to the rubric sections in which the draft loses the most points. (This “grade” is for reference only; the only points at stake in the rough draft are the ten they get for turning it in on time, just like any other homework assignment.) Then, they write a “final draft,” in which I encourage them to use my comments and their peers’ review as a guide to revision (most do). If they are still dissatisfied with their grade at this point, they can write a “rewrite” – at this point, I strongly encourage them to stop by my office hours to talk before they attempt the rewrite.
- Quality of the final draft is absolutely correlated to whether or not the rough draft was turned in, with most students making significant gains between the rough and final drafts. I had one student bump a grade from a 65 on the “rough” draft to a 100 on the “final,” although the average bump is 15 points.
- Students who turned in both a rough and final draft averaged an A on the paper. Students who turned in only a final draft averaged a C.
- I recommended a rewrite to only one student, of 30, who turned in both a rough and final draft. This student made the 15-point average increase, but it was from a 65 to an 80, and I firmly believe the student can move this draft into “A” territory with one more go-round and some one-on-one coaching.
What I am trying to decide now is whether to keep this three-step structure or to modify it – and if so, how. Possibilities include:
- Making the “final” draft optional if the student is satisfied with his or her “rough” draft grade. Pros: fewer finals for me to grade; more free time for students. Cons: Even the ones who gave me “A” rough drafts improved in the final draft, so I believe the revision process is good for them as well.
- Eliminating the rewrite option. Pros: fewer rewrites for me to grade; more pressure to do both the rough and final drafts. Cons: students who don’t do rough drafts typically don’t do them under increased pressure either; less flexibility for students with computer issues/family issues/whatever; less scope for that one-on-one time.
- Mandating a one-on-one paper talk before turning in the rewrite. Pros: Students who need a rewrite typically do better one-on-one; my office hours actually get used. Cons: (maybe?) more work for me; occasional student may be unable to schedule.
Thoughts? Opinions? What would have worked for you a student – or does work for you as a teacher?