Tuesday, June 29, 2010


As a hippy-dippy writing teacher, I believe writing is a process. There is no one way to do it. (Which is a lie, the way to do it is to follow all the directions.)

I do occasionally allow rewrites for this reason. Get some more practice in, learn from feedback. Go and sin no more.

The last rewrite I offered to the entire class. 99% of the classes needed to submit work. They needed that higher grade. Only 2% of the class submitted anything. And 50% of those students who turned in new work did worse.

Why bother?

At least I can be thankful there was no grade-grubbing at the end of the term from this group.


  1. Oh, dear, when we "believe" too much, we're always setting ourselves up to be hurt...I'm with you, Ophelia!

  2. Offering rewrites is nearly always worth it cost-benefit wise. It makes students think you are fair and caring, which gives you an evaluation bump, but they hardly ever actually do them. Even if they do, the marking burden isn't high. Just take a look and see if they paid attention to any of your comments.

  3. Another good move, cost-benefit wise, is not to write a grade lower than a C on the submitted essay. Instead, record the grade you *would* give them for your own record, and ask them to rewrite the essay. In my experience, as often as not they will not submit a revision, but they don't know what they got...so they don't hate you for giving them the D or F they earned.

  4. I have problems with optional rewrites (allowed after-the-fact) because, in the end, they really are often "unfair."

    Some of our students really don't have extra time to re-do assignments because of busy schedules. This means that the students who CAN take advantage of the option will be those who either don't work or just don;t have to, or those who have a light course load, or who are talented but lazy.

    I think as an idea, it's fantastic and very generous. But if it's not part of the syllabus and there aren't tight constraints on who can re-write, and how, I think it's just creating an unequal educational experience.

    Now, if you planned for the syllabus to contain a due date for optional drafts and they don't give you any, well, then....

    Also, allowing impromptu re-writes sets up the expectation that they will always be able to do so with every future prof. And, well, some don't have the time and actually expect their students to do their best work by the deadline.

  5. Yeah, well...fairness and instruction used to be my primary concerns, until my chair put me on notice about my last two semesters' eval #'s. I'm not tenured, and my family counts on me. And allowing the 'flakes rewrites contributed to some pretty damn good evals last semester, numbers that far exceeded the chair's expectations. So guess what my new priority is? I'll let the tenured faculty brandish the sword of principle.

  6. I have had colleagues who set two possible due dates for an assignment. The earlier date is for those who want comments on their paper. The date a week later is for those who just want a grade.

    About 3/4 of the class opts for the later date. This cuts down their workload considerably.

    I think allowing time for "optional rewrites" on the initial schedule is a good idea of the same kind. Not everyone will take advantage of it - in fact almost no one will - so the increased workload is minimal, and if they're warned in advance that these rewrites will be available, they can plan for it.

  7. My motto is "If you don't have the time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it over?" I always offer optional conferences on drafts (the drafts are mandatory in my comp classes) and also direct them to the writing center if we can't work something out. Students who take advantage generally get a bump of at least half a letter. But for any given assignment, if even a quarter of the class takes advantage of the opportunities, it's unusual.

  8. I require a rewrite on the first paper now because I became frustrated by the fact that only a few people would take advantage of the option when it was a choice and then complain about grades. Now that I have switched over, while they moan and complain initially, I get less issues later on in the class and it has helped significantly with their second paper and comprehension of how to actually write the thing which ultimately is what makes it worth it to me to continue requiring the rewrite.

  9. I also had trouble with mandatory drafts. I taught a class devoted solely to teaching students how to write a research paper. They had 2 drafts due for grading.

    Draft #1 was usually a mess for 50% of the class. Draft #2 was supposed to an almost-complete paper, complete with citations, a works cited page, and a conclusion. Oh...so not close for about 70% of the class, who usually just handed in what I actually wanted for Draft #1.

    The final versions of their papers? Don't ask. I could have handed Fs out like candy. Instead, I focused on just writing up all the plagiarists. Oddly enough, I think that final grades formed a bell curve, which was not the agenda of that school.

    I hadn't realized that until right now! I guess should be happy after the fact.


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