The University of Texas at Austin
School of Undergraduate Studies
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Responding to Student Writing

Students’ writing improves dramatically when they revise in response to feedback from their instructor. In Writing Flag courses (all UGS 302s and some 303s), students must revise at least one major project in response to feedback from the instructor or TA. Students in all Signature Courses should have a chance to revisit at least one written project after receiving feedback. Here are some ways to simplify the process.


Don’t comment on every problem or error: this overwhelms the student. Instead, pick two or three major issues to address, and give the student direct suggestions on what to do next to improve the draft. Professor John Bean suggests a hierarchy:

  1. Does the draft follow the basic requirements of the assignment?
  2. Does the thesis have substance? Freshmen especially are used to writing “all about” reports that summarize instead of analyzing.
  3. What is the quality of the argument? Is it logical?
  4. Does the large-scale organization make sense? Are there important questions left unaddressed, or do parts of the draft seem off-topic?
  5. Are the paragraphs unified and coherent?
  6. What patterns of error exist on the local level—word choice, grammar problems, inappropriate tone, etc.?

Make Expectations Clear

Always include specific grading criteria when you assign writing. Discuss the criteria before students begin the assignment, and refer back to these discussions when you need to point students in the right direction.
Sample grading criteria and rubrics.

Style guidelines can also establish your expectations for student writing.
Sample style guidelines for a Signature Course.


Minimize Error Marking

Do not edit or correct student error. Do address it in your grading criteria. “Minimal marking” (as described by Richard Haswell) will help students take responsibility for finding and correctin