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VIDEO: How do you know a student is on track to improve?

One of the things that makes Eli a little bit different than other products out there is that we—me, Jeff Grabill, and Mike Mcleod—designed Eli from the very beginning around learning indicators.  We are writing researchers and writing teachers ourselves, and part of what we were thinking about is how we could more quickly tell which students were headed in a good direction and which were not. We asked:

What is the thing that, if I see it happening, I know, “Boom! They got it!” For us, it was a moment where a student took a piece of feedback that they received from somebody and used that to make a revision to improve a piece of writing.

Using feedback to revise is the clearest indicator we could think of that students are on track to improve. So, how can teachers see that moment?

In a traditional classroom, students are writing papers on their own. Maybe they’re doing peer review in class. Maybe they get feedback from their teacher. Then, they go away to revise.  When they turn in their final paper, we can try to compare the final version with the feedback they received.  But, we’re guessing. And, we’re late. Even if we asked students to explain what peer feedback they relied on to revise their paper when they turn in that final draft, the moment to help a student improve has already passed.

In Eli Review, our goal is to set students on a path to do certain behaviors that we know are good indicators of learning. For example, giving feedback gets students thinking about revising. Also, rating the helpfulness of a comment they’ve received encourages students to read their feedback thoughtfully. But, the most important indicator of improvement is whether the writer plans to act on that comment or not.

The most important indicator of improvement is whether the writer plans to act on that comment or not.

To see if students are on track to improve, teachers need to be able to see all the feedback that they got versus all the feedback they plan to use. If you know what feedback writers are using and ignoring, you have much better sense of the quality of revision the writer will be able to do. But actually, it’s enough just to know what feedback writers want to use.

For our team, a revision plan is the strongest indicator that students are on track to revise. The plan lets us know how well students are selecting, prioritizing, and reflecting on the feedback they’ve received. It lets us coach the thinking writers are doing between drafts faster.

Revision plans let us coach the thinking writers are doing better and faster.

Teachers tell us all the time that they don’t assign revision plans because they and students don’t have time to do them. When a business professor teaching a class of 570+ students says that, we believe him. But, the time problem doesn’t make sense in a small writing class for this reason: Any other artifact of the writing process is going to be a noisier, more time-consuming signal to make sense of.

If the question is, “Does this writer have what they need to revise?,” students’ revision plans indicate what feedback they are prioritizing and why. It’s the clearest indicator that some learning has happened and more learning is coming. It’s a formative snapshot of students’ thinking. It’s short, clear, and just-in-time.

That’s why revision plans are more valuable than students’ drafts, and it’s what makes Eli so different from other peer learning apps, which focus on summative indicators.

VIDEO: How do you know a student is on track to improve? was published to the Eli Review Blog in the category Pedagogy.

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