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You are here: Home > Online Articles > Enthusiastic, Student-Driven Revision

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Enthusiastic, Student-Driven Revision

By Kim Marshall

02/02/2021

The article: “‘Publishable’ and ‘Not Yet Publishable’” by Alexis Wiggins in Education Week, January 3, 2021; Wiggins can be reached awiggins@ceelcenter.org.

“How do you get students to want to revise their writing?” asks high-school teacher Alexis Wiggins in this Education Week article. “That is the $64,000 question.” A few years ago, she had the idea of returning students’ papers with formative feedback on each standard on a comprehensive three-level rubric (she got the idea from her father, Grant Wiggins):



  • Publishable (A work)

  • Revisable (anywhere from a B+ to a D-)

  • Redo (completely missed the mark and needs a reboot)


Wiggins was delighted with the response: “My students largely worked their tails off to eventually move from the “Revisable” column to the “Publishable” column. The downside? It was killing me. I couldn’t handle the volume of revisions I was confronted with and the amount of comments I had to write out on every single draft submitted to provide adequate feedback to help students revise and improve.” This led her to abandon the idea after only a year, but she was stuck with the humanities teacher’s emotions about grading: “Dread, loathe, and avoid.”


Ten years later, it occurred to Wiggins that the three-level feedback system would be workable if students did most of their revising themselves using a detailed, standards-based rubric as a guide. This rating scale is “designed backwards from the end goals,” says Wiggins: “persuasive, eloquent use of language and argument.” All she did now was check the level at which a student’s work was (Publishable, Revisable, Redo) and, if it wasn’t already Publishable, jotted the student a quick note on what needed to be done to boost the level on that standard. Wiggins tried this last year with her Composition and Film classes, and found that grading time was cut in half, even though students were submitting similar amounts of writing.


The key point, she says, is that students don’t get grades for individual assignments; all they get is a Publishable/Revisable/Redo on each rubric standard. At the end of the semester, Wiggins decides each student’s grade based on a breakdown of how many assignments are in each of the categories. Students can revise as many times as they like before the due date (close to the end of the semester). The criteria are spelled out on the back of her rubric.


Wiggins says the rubric and targeted feedback are “the best system I have ever experienced in my 20-year career, hands down… Students have reported nearly unanimously in surveys that they have improved, wanted to revise their work, and paid attention to teacher feedback more than ever with this new system. Nineteen out of 20 of my students said this was the best style of assessment they had ever experienced and that all teachers should use it.” That’s because they’re less anxious now that they’re in control of their grades, revisions, and what they learn. Why? When they got letter grades, there was an element of adult judgment that provoked negative emotions – and that happened to the teacher as well. “The reason I most dreaded grading before,” says Wiggins, “wasn’t so much the time commitment as the fear of how a student would respond emotionally to the grade I gave them.” Now it’s simply a joint effort to revise work up to the Publishable level – with students doing most of the work.




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