How Can Students Learn to Revise Effectively?

How can students learn to revise effectively?

As with other parts of the writing process, revision needs to be taught, and not simply assigned.

Unless they are explicitly taught otherwise, students commonly assume that:

  • Most changes will be at the surface level
  • Revision “corrects mistakes”
  • They need to address exactly and only issues that have been marked and labeled explicitly
  • They are working towards a cleaner, clearer version of their first draft
  • Revision happens once

Students need to be taught how to develop a more professional pattern of revision, which includes:

  • Rethinking the central concepts, premises, use of evidence, and organization of their ideas.
  • Following through with the logical consequences of local changes.
  • Reorienting from writer-centered prose (the writer as primary audience) to reader-centered prose (the readers as primary audience), including developing stronger introductions, orienting and contextualizing information, and logical transitions.
  • Reworking their syntax for clarity and concision, throughout the essay and not just in a few sentences.
  • Ensuring that their evidence is clearly framed and introduced, and cited correctly and completely.

To teach students to produce that more professional revision:

  • Provide models of what professional revision looks like, discussing the thinking and work behind specific revisions, in order to make the expectations for, and processes of, revision clear.
  • Discuss your own revision practices with your students, and how your own ideas on a project have developed over time.
  • Provide revision-centered comments.
  • Offer students opportunities for peer review.
  • Encourage or require students to meet with a WAC lecturer, writing advisor or course instructor, or to visit the Writing Center.
  • Ask students to attach a cover letter to revisions, explaining what they’ve revised and why.
  • Provide sufficient time between when you will return assignments with comments, and the revision due date (usually a week is necessary).

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