Improving writing and revision skills

iStock_000001519996SmallIn developing teaching methods to improve the editing and revising skills of students, research revealed that instruction in revision techniques, in combination with feedback from fellow students, can be of significant benefit.

Vicki Olson, of Augsburg College, Minneapolis, conducted a four-and-one-half-month study of sixth graders in four heterogeneous, self-contained classrooms. All classes received the same six-lesson autobiographical writing assignment as part of their language arts curriculum.

Each of the four classes, however, followed a different program. Students in the first class received specific instruction in the use of five revision techniques (adding deleting, substituting, paraphrasing, and rearranging) prior to starting the writing assignments. Students in the second class received the same instruction but were also assigned classmates as working partners. Students in the third class were assigned partners, but were given no revision instruction. Students in the fourth class served as a control, receiving neither instruction in revision nor partners.

After four-and-one-half months, student writing samples were evaluated. These evaluations showed that all students endeavored to improve their writing by correcting mechanics and spelling and by substituting, adding or deleting words. However, students in the two classes which received revision instruction were the only ones who accomplished a significant amount of revision of content through paraphrasing or improving the sequence of the story. Students who received revision instruction and worked with partners wrote drafts of the highest quality. Writing by students who received no revision instruction, but who worked with partners, ranked second. The class which received only revision instruction ranked third, and the control group, with no instruction or partners, ranked last.

Clearly, the opportunity for students to discuss their writing with a classmate resulted in drafts of significantly higher quality. Olson suggests that further studies incorporating observations of and interviews with students might help explain why students responded as they did to the different instructional programs.

“The Revising Processes of Sixth-Grade Writers With and Without Peer Feedback” Journal of Educational Research Volume 84, No. 1, p. 22-29.

Published in ERN January/February 1991 Volume 4 Number 1


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