VI. Responding to Writing

The WAC program offers workshops and individual consultations for strategies in responding to student writing. E-mail Georgia Rhoades at for more information or to set up a consultation. (Also see the WAC handout, RESPONDING TO STUDENT WRITING for more information.)

EVALUATION is the process of determining the worth or value of something and is often the analysis and comparison of actual progress vs. prior plans, oriented toward improving plans for future implementation. There are numerous ways to evaluate student writing that include portfolios, journals, checkmarks, peer feedback, or teacher-focused feedback. (For more information on evaluating student writing, see the WAC Program’s WRITING TO LEARN [and sample assignment], WRITING TO COMMUNICATE, and LOW STAKES and HIGH STAKES handouts.)

FEEDBACK entails objective comments given to or received from others that writers can use in revising writing assignments. A teacher may provide feedback, but students also might provide feedback in peer-to-peer sessions. The writer should direct the type of feedback he/she wants from readers and should take control of the process. (Click here for a handout about different types of FEEDBACK.)

FORMATIVE EVALUATION is a way to evaluate students’ writing that leaves room for revision. A grade is not immediately given since the assignment develops with each draft. These types of assignments are often called low-stakes as they leave much room for revision and are done to spark more involvement in the writing process. Often they can be referred to as writing to learn assignments as well because they help students learn what they are writing about and the best way to approach their topic. An example of this assignment could be journal entries used to develop a paper. (Compare to SUMMATIVE EVALUATION below.)

PEER REVIEW  Many composition teachers use some version of PEER REVIEW in their classes. Students can learn from each other and can teach themselves by looking at each other’s papers. Peer review workshops are designed so that students provide feedback to their group members about drafts of their papers. (See the WAC handout on GROUP WORK for more information.) 

Some teachers prefer that students read their work aloud to their groups; some require students to bring copies of their papers for all of their group members; some have group members exchange papers and offer feedback. The latter is probably the quickest method, but reading aloud helps in at least two ways: students hear how their papers sound when read aloud and how well the papers flow; students can also often catch some simple error. 

Peer review should be taught to some extent, otherwise students may feel it is simply “busy work.” The writer should be in charge of directing the feedback he/she wants, but the teacher can instruct students in what to look for. This requires students to be reflective and to employ meta-cognitive skills: they must think about their writing and how they write. Peer review could focus on two basic ideas: (1) What is good about the draft? and (2) What could be better?

PROOFREADING is the final stage of the writing process. While correctness is important in writing, it should be de-emphasized in a portfolio-writing class and in low-stakes writing or writing to discover assignments. Error is the easiest thing for teachers to find and the easiest to quantify, but too often it is the sole criteria for evaluating writing and what students have been penalized for throughout their writing careers. This often causes them to feel inadequate as writers, and they grow to hate writing when the problem is simply that they do not know some basic grammar rules. Some suggestions for helping correct error in students’ papers are the following: (1) Peer editing and peer review; (2) reading papers aloud; (3) individual tutoring; (4) group conferences; (5) a visit (or several visits) to the writing center. Grammar lessons for the whole class are usually not effective because students who have no problems with comma splices (for example) will lose interest in a lesson about comma splices, and students who need the lesson need to be shown their problems directly in one-to-one sessions. (See the WAC handout, Put Down That Red Pen! How Process Writing Deals with Error.”)

REVISION literally means “re-seeing.” Too often it is seen as “fixing” a paper, but it can be more than that. Some teachers (see Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff) focus on three main areas of revision: (1) the skin (surface error), (2) muscles (the meat of the paper, the ideas, details, support, etc.), or (3) the bones (the framework, the structure, organization). Some teachers require extensive revision as a way of re-seeing the paper and require multiple drafts of each paper. Toby Fulwiler (in “Provocative Revision”) categorizes revisions in four categories: (1) limiting (the time, place, action, scope, or focus so that writers can be more detailed and less general); (2) adding (dialogue, interviews, specifics); (3) switching (point of view or voice); and (4) transforming, creating a new form for the piece (for example, turning a research paper into a speculative or familiar essay or a personal experience essay into a letter or diary).

A RUBRIC is a scoring tool that lays out the specific expectations for an assignment, course or program (from Stevens, Dannelle D. and Antonia J. Levi. Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2005). (Click here for sample rubrics for Documentation and Reflection in English 2001).

SUMMATIVE EVALUATION is often writing that is done under time constraints. There is no time for revision, and evaluation is done immediately after the text is written. The SAT and GRE written exams are good examples of this type of writing. Summative evaluation also refers to the scoring of final drafts or portfolios, when opportunity for further revision has ended. (Compare to FORMATIVE EVALUATION above.)


Contact Us

For information about the Writing Across the Curriculum Program please contact Director Georgia Rhoades at (828) 262-2075 or e-mail at

Writing Across the Curriculum Program
Appalachian State University
253 Anne Belk Hall
ASU Box 32033
Boone, NC 28608-2033

(828) 262-2075 (office)
(828) 262-2032 (fax)

For more information about WAC

Vertical Writing Model

WAC Film

Community College Support

Web Resources

QEP Global Learning