As a young teacher, I always searched for ways to motivate my students to work to their fullest potential. It wasn’t until I read The Smart and Good Schools report that I finally realized what I was missing in my teaching tool belt: Revisions.
The idea seemed so clever, yet so obvious, so necessary. From that moment, I have allowed and encouraged my students to revise any and all of their work. Since making this change in my class, I have seen what has worked well and what has worked amazingly well. As Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect”.
My students are given the opportunity to revise any problems missed on an assignment and resubmit it to me for a new grade – full credit. The idea behind doing this is class work and homework should be considered practice. We practice to become proficient. Therefore, if we make mistakes along the way, we should be given the chance to learn from our errors and redo it mistake free. My students may revise assignments multiple times; there is no limit on the number of attempts to produce a great math product.
I do have some limitations with this process. Revisions can only be done, for an improved grade, during the current chapter. Once we take the chapter test, the assignment scores are locked and cannot be changed. While I believe it is always important to continue the revision process, I found early on that a time limit must be placed or some of the students might be tempted to wait until the end of the quarter to revise the assignments in a last ditch effort to raise their grade. My thought is the grade is the secondary reason behind revisions. The primary reason for revisions is to understand the concept and the test date is the deadline to show full understanding of the concepts for the given chapter.
There must be pros and cons for revising, right? The answer is yes, though my belief is the pros heavily outweigh the cons. The one con of revising is the extra work placed at the feet of the teacher. We must grade assignments on a daily basis and have the graded papers back the very next day, to be effective. I strongly believe that we should practice what we preach and if we are asking our kids to work to their fullest potential, we should model the same work ethic to the class.
The pros for revisions are endless. By using this process, you can expect more from your students and they know that it is ok to take risks because they will have a second and third chance if needed. This process also promotes honesty. Students know it is ok to mark problems when they are wrong because they are allowed to fix their mistakes and the benefit of the relearning far outweighs those for cheating. The greatest benefit from using this process is the depth of understanding that occurs. The focus of assignments goes from getting them done to learning the concept more deeply and completely. The proof is bottom line. Students that use this process actually test better and retain longer. The benefit I enjoy most is the attitude changes. I have kids every year that come back to tell me how well they are doing in math and how easy it is. I contribute much of their success to this life choice.