Feedback Teaching Writing

Helping Students Revise

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In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback.  But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers.  And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface.  So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing?

The researchers at Eli Review, a peer review software application, have been studying the relationship between feedback and revision for some time now.  Based on this research, they recommend a few best practices for supporting student revision.  We list two of their main recommendations below:

  • Faculty should prioritize revision: Students should be given more opportunities to revise, and those opportunities should begin early in the drafting period. Students often are asked to revise late in the drafting process and close to due dates; this practice reduces their openness to making substantive changes to drafts.  When students are able to revise early, they are more likely to engage feedback and make changes to their drafts.
  • Students should plan revision: Students should have time to review feedback and make a plan based on the commentary they receive. Often, feedback can overwhelm students, and they end up engaging it in patchwork ways: responding to individual comments instead of considering how the commentary describes the draft as a whole.  As teachers, we should give students time to identify the feedback they will draw on, prioritize the commentary in that selection, and reflect on how they will use the feedback they have identified.

To learn more about feedback and revision, visit Eli Review’s resource page where they have a number of articles, lessons for students, and videos discussing how to provide better feedback and support more effective revision.


Gottschalk, K., & Hjortshoj, K. (2004). The elements of teaching writing: A resource for instructors in all disciplines. Macmillan.