1:1 classroom

Researchers develop groundbreaking technology for student writing success

This IB school gives students more writing practice—without taxing teachers.

As with any skill, the key to better writing is more practice. But that creates a dilemma for the teachers tasked with helping students improve their writing skills: How can they build more opportunities into the curriculum for students to practice writing, while still giving students both timely and meaningful feedback?

The problem is especially challenging for high school teachers, who might have as many as five classes of 30 students each. That’s 150 essays they would have to read and respond to for every writing assignment they give.

One School is Finding Writing Success…

South Kitsap High School, a newly authorized International Baccalaureate World School across the bay from Seattle, has found an innovative solution to this challenge. It’s a technology-based platform called Revision Assistant, from Turnitin.

Using Revision Assistant has allowed South Kitsap teachers in all disciplines to give students more frequent writing assignments, without adding more work to their already-full plates. That, in turn, has helped better prepare the school’s students for the rigors of an IB curriculum.

…with Groundbreaking Technology

Powered by technology that emerged from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Revision Assistant uses sophisticated algorithms to analyze both the context and syntax of writing. Far more than a simple grammar checker, Revision Assistant is able to read an essay and then compare how strong the writing and content is with thousands of similar papers already in its database.

“Revision Assistant isn’t just essay grading software. It’s a complex program that compares essays against a series of standards and then makes recommendations to the student about how to make that paper better,” said Elijah Mayfield, vice president of new technologies for Turnitin.

In other words, Revision Assistant reads students’ writing like a teacher would, then provides immediate feedback to help students improve their writing skills.

Video: Teachers and Students on Revision Assistant:

For high school English teachers who have 150 student papers to read, it might take a week or more for students to get their papers back with the teacher’s comments. By that time, the teachable moment is gone. Revision Assistant provides the kind of detailed, constructive feedback that teachers would give if they had the time to do so for each student draft—and it does so instantly.

“Students learn in the moment,” said Kelly Ogan, an English teacher at South Kitsap High School. “Your best chance at helping them learn is at the very moment they did something wrong, or right.” Revision Assistant helps Kelly and her peers capitalize on that moment, because it gives immediate feedback when the student calls for a “signal check” to evaluate their essay in progress.

(Next page: An example of how this writing technology actually works)

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