In grading a recent test, I noticed that the scores were lower than usual. I questioned if we had spent enough time on the material. I wondered if I had failed to address the challenging content appropriately. Was I to blame for the below average scores? Was it time for the dreaded “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. After wallowing in this short self-blaming, “I stink as a teacher” mode, I decided to do something about it. I decided to offer my students a re-do. I love a good old re-do because they are wrapped in hope, second chances, and all things warm and fuzzy. I think we all could benefit from a do-over every now and then (or every day). Like the infamous episode where Oprah gave away cars, teachers should give away do-overs in their classrooms. Every once in a while teachers should say, “here’s a free do-over for you, one for you, one for you…” The only problem is that there are some drawbacks to the revision process. Students may take advantage, the revision opportunity may limit the effort put forth on the initial work, and of course the practicality issue (in the real world we do not always get to correct our mistakes). Lastly, sometimes students don’t follow through and do not participate in the revision process at all. In the spirit of revision, I have developed a list of 7 strategies to facilitate the process and in turn encourage student participation:
1. Assess student interest in revision.
When thinking about assessing interest, an online ad (it has over 20 million views) about gender stereotypes came to mind. You can watch the entire ad here. In the ad, there are adolescents that role play physical activities "like a girl" and then they act out the same activities "like a boy". Unsurprisingly, within the role plays, the girls are portrayed less flatterinly than boys (for example they run less powerfully, swim less aggressively, etc.). The best part, however is after a discussion of gender stereotypes, the adolescents are asked if they wish for a second chance to do their role plays "differently". Instead of forcing a do-over, the children are invited to revisit their stereotypically laden gender beliefs. And you know what-each child participates in the do-over. The big take-away here is that a simple participation request allows for instant participant buy-in and thus increases participation in the revision process.
2. Include students as peer reviewers in the process.
Even though teachers are more knowledgeable than students (we are the experts in the classroom), we can learn a great deal from our students. The “curse of the expert” theory outlines how experts may sabotage learning (they often underestimate the level of task difficulty and overestimate potential performance of novices). In order to get around this, try to incorporate the help of your students in the revision process. Students share the same language or jargon, and provide a variety of feedback to help one another improve their work (Cho & MacArthur, 2010).
3. Consider how to manage time in the revision process.
If you are not careful, all of your teaching time will turn into revision time. To avoid this, one educator in an article titled “The utility of a student organized revision day" describes the benefits of designating one class day for student revision (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2012). Another idea that I tend to use-would be to include detailed rubrics so that the students have what they need to get the assignment right the very first time. A final suggestion would be the use of video to record assignment instructions or tips (Whatley & Ahmad, 2007). The video method is effective because conversational style is often more user-friendly than written/formal style (personalization learning principle).
4. Consider how your feedback influences student revision.
An article titled "What does it take to make a change?" shows the that the type of teacher feedback impacts the likelihood that a student will participate in the revision process (Silver & Lee, 2007). Specifically, when teachers offer advice about how to improve work quality, this facilitates more revision than other feedback methods (such as praise or criticism). So, if you tell your student, “I wonder if you can provide more details”, instead of saying “I like how you use detail in this one part”, the student may be more inclined to revise the work.
5. Examine how students view the revision process.
Do you remember Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs? In general, Maslow described our needs in terms of layers- basic needs had to be met before we could pursue higher order needs. A Maslow-like theory may explain how students perceive the revision process (Thompson, 1994). In a paper from the College Composition and Communication conference, an educator described that in revision, students attend to basic needs (what is required to pass or not fail the assignment) and then they move on to higher order revising skills (creativity, synthesis, etc.).
6. Adjust classroom perception of revision.
Students view revision as a reflection of themselves. One study from the English Teaching Practice and Critique Journal showed that students believed that teacher revision comments indicated they were "careless" (Silver & Lee, 2007). Also, students reported that the teacher feedback lowered their confidence and made them feel angry. My take away from this study is that teachers must work to improve the way students perceive the re-do process. Perhaps reminding students that change is not bad. Additionally, identifying real-life examples of revision (such as remaking movies or remixing songs) to help students see that revising is a normal part of life.
7. Measure the revision process.
If you decide to offer students a re-do, measuring how well the process works (or not) is useful. Think about asking the students to provide feedback about their experience with revision. Typically, students report that revision allows for an increase in knowledge and confidence (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2013). Also, reviewing the grade changes (before and after the revisionn) will offer insight into the usefulness of allowing students to re-do future assignments.