Thursday, November 06, 2014

#worthassigning Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy

Peer Feedback and Why it Matters for, and Leads to, Better Revision

Eli Review begins a new professional development series with a wonderfully smart piece called "Feedback and Revision: The Key Components of Powerful Writing Pedagogy" at Eli Review, and this article, is powered by the minds and experience of expert teachers and accomplished composition researchers, Jeff Grabill and Bill Hart-Davidson, and a protege graduate student of theirs, Mike McLeod.

While their piece is pitched to faculty, and is excellent for graduate teaching associates taking a writing and teaching of writing course, or for learning center or writing center tutors, or to introduce powerful peer review and revision strategies to faculty via WAC programs or centers for teaching and learning, it is also the kind of thing I'd assign to students, even the most novice of them, as well.

The piece is structured as six part module:
  1. Helpful Feedback Fuels Learning
  2. Revision Leads to Better Writing
  3. What Feedback Is and How to Teach It
  4. Teaching Revision: The Basic Moves
  5. But I don’t have time! 
  6. Discussion, Resources, and Next Steps
The first five parts include short videos that punctuate the text, which is engagingly written, not overly jargoned, The piece is simply friendly and encouraging. It makes getting better revision seem possible, not insurmountable.

Though for teachers, with an implicit focus on classroom assignments and contexts, the insights on feedback apply to tutors, especially in writing and learning centers that might also do small group work, where tutors help coach writers to give feedback.  It's worth assigning to students because it makes accessible the research and theory behind asking students to do peer feedback, something they're often reluctant to do. By making clear the connection of feedback to revision, and revision to growth as a writer, and revision as more than just surface edits, the piece helps teach novice writers the value of the doing peer review, of giving it as well as getting it.

This kind of insight into the reasons for requiring peer feedback, for valuing it, for doing it early and often, helps students buy into doing it. Remember, it's not easy to learn to give good feedback, and it takes students time to learn how to use feedback and how to trust feedback from their peers. Eli Review, as a product does more than any product I know to help that learning, build that trust. But even if you're not using Eli, the insights and discussion will  help you get students to giving, listening to, and revising more fully from peer review. So it's worth assigning.

To help with assigning to students, to make this something you can better use either to introduce feedback and revision or as part of any course with writing1, here are variations on Eli's questions for discussion that you can use with students:
  1.     In the past, how has feedback helped you make decide what kinds of changes to make in your writing, learning, or other goals such as getting better at sport, or cooking or dancing or some other pursuit? How will feedback help you achieve the learning goals you set for this course?
  2.     Have you ever given someone feedback, advice, help of any kind and then thought to yourself, hey, that's a good idea, I'll try it myself? If you give writing feedback to a classmate that's really useful to them, do you think it might also be useful to you, or based on something that was useful to you?
  3.     Writing is part of this course, and our goal in revising based on peer feedback is in part to teach you all how to get and give feedback on your own. What role does writing play in other courses you have, and how might feedback play a role in learning in those courses?
  4.     How might your learning about writing change, learning about yourself as a writer, if you had data on the usefulness of the feedback you gave, a record of what feedback you found useful, and reflective revision plans that show how you made used the feedback you received? 

1.  If you're teaching a first year writing course based on Doug Downs and Elizabeth Wardle's Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions: (Re)Envisioning "First-Year Composition" as "Introduction to Writing Studies" , the Eli piece is useful for introducing some of the research and practices behind peer review and revision. See also Doug's and Liz's Writing About Writing.

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