Revision and Learning

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessment of eighth-grade students found that only 2% wrote at an advanced level, 31% at a proficient level, 55% at a basic level, and 22% at a below basic level. The results were slightly worse for 12th graders (1% advanced, 23% proficient, 58% basic, and 28% at a below basic level).  (NAEP, 2007)

Routinely engaging in revision was associated with better performance. Students who stated that they were required to routinely revise scored highest, followed by those who said they sometimes were asked to revise, and finally by those never asked to revise. (NAEP, 2007)

It is likely that giving students greater opportunity to revise will lead to improved writing skills.


Students usually do not spontaneously revise at an optimal level (Hayes, 1996; Hayes & Flower, 1986; Sommers, 1980; Wallace et al., 1996) and require explicit instruction.

Experts revise more often than novices, who tend not to spend much time revising (Bridwell, 1980; Flower et al., 1986; Galbraith & Torrance, 2004; Hayes & Flower, 1986; Wallace & Hayes, 1991).

Kieft, Rijlaarsdam, Galbraith, and van den Bergh (2007) found that instruction that focused on a revision strategy was most helpful for writers with an undeveloped writing strategy.

Therefore, high quality revisions must be shaped by high quality review processes.


Bridwell, L. S. (1980). Revising strategies in twelfth grade students’ transactional writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 14, 197-222.

Flower, L., Hayes, J. R., Carey, L., Schriver, K., & Stratman, J. (1986). Detection, diagnosis, and the strategies of revision. College Composition and Communication, 37(1), 16-55.

Galbraith, D., & Torrance, M., (2004). Revision in the context of different drafting strategies. In L. Allal, L. Chanquoy, & P. Largy (Eds.), Revision: Cognitive and instructional processes (pp. 63-85). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic.

Hayes, J. R. (1996). A new framework for understanding cognition and affect in writing. In C. M. Levy & S. Randsdell (Eds.), The science of writing (pp. 1-27). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1986). Writing research and the writer. American Psychologist, 41, 1106-1113.

Kieft, M., Rijlaarsdam, G., Galbraith, D., & van den Bergh, H. (2007). The effects of adapting a writing course to students’ writing strategies. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 565-578.

National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2007). NAEP 2007 writing report card: Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from

Sommers, N. (1980). Revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers. College Composition and Communication, 31, 78-88.

Wallace, D. L., & Hayes, J. R. (1991). Redefining revision for freshmen. Research in the Teaching of English, 25(1), 54-66.

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