D.32: Testing Metacognition: The Risks and Rewards of Reflecting on Revision Practices
Reviewed by Bruce Kovanen, Knox College, Galesburg, IL (email@example.com)
Speakers: Martin Camper, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD, “The Rewards of Metacognitive Reflection: When Alignment Occurs”
Heather Lindenman, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, “Troubling Metacognitive Reflection: When Misalignment Occurs”
Lindsay Dunne Jacoby, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, “Pedagogical Implications of Our Study of Reflection and Revision”
Respondent: Jessica Enoch, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, “Programmatic Implications of Our Study of Reflection and Revision”
To set the stage for the panel presentation, Martin Camper posited a question we all face as instructors: How can we make students better revisers and, hopefully, better writers? Camper then examined the role that reflection has often historically played in the answering of this question and how student response to our request for reflection can go astray.
To provide context for the panel, Camper followed his opening question with an example as he discussed a student’s reflective memo that articulated a fairly complex idea about the interaction of authorial voice and sources. However, when he, his fellow panelists, and others in their research group examined the physical changes the student made to his paper, however, they noticed few substantive revisions, and even worse, the student actually introduced more errors into his paper by removing quotation marks and citations in order to assert his voice in the paper. Experiences like this one led the panelists along with some of their colleagues to question whether some types of reflection work better than others in facilitating a move from editorial revision to a more complex view of revision as discovery.
To this end, Camper and his fellow panelists devised a methodology and context for their research. In 2013, the curriculum for the Academic Writing course at the University of Maryland changed to add a stronger reflective component to the course in order to promote the development of effective and substantial revision skills and strategies. Students were now required to submit a revision and reflection portfolio as their final assignment in the course. In the portfolio, students would include three documents: their original essay, their revised essay, and a reflective memo in which students wrote about their revision choices.
According to Camper, the panelists collected 153 student portfolios and used Microsoft Word’s Merge Document function to create a fourth document that marked the changes students made from the original to the revised text. Next, using a grounded theory approach, they created a codebook using a sample of student portfolios. In total, the panelists generated 36 codes divided into sets of parent codes and child codes. The parent codes included writer self-awareness, transfer, academic writing, sources of revision, stasis, textbook revision, and research. After describing the generation of the codebook and their codes, Camper handed the microphone to Heather Lindenman to discuss some of the group’s findings.
From their analysis of the data, the panelists discovered what may be considered expected results: The stronger the metacognitive awareness, the stronger the revision, and vice versa. There were also a significant number of students whose results were of a different sort, however. These students represented misaligned revision, meaning that the students either performed strong revisions, but did not show examples of reflection in their memos, or they presented a great deal of metacognitive awareness in their memos, but left their revised papers almost untouched. Lindenman chose to further study the second group of students by asking the following question: How could students who showed such metacognitive awareness fail to deliver on their revisions?
From an extended analysis of student portfolios, Lindenman articulated four categories for misaligned student memos: a) narrative of progress without follow through, which suggests that students spent more time talking about their progress than the actual choices they made; b) the argument that small changes have a big effect, which suggests that students thought their editorial, surface-level revisions substantially changed the nature of their texts; c) the “schmooze” factor, which describes reflective memos that are overly effuse in their praise of the instructor and class concepts at the expense of discussion of actual changes to the text; and d) the defensive reviser, which describes students who took the revision comments personally and believed their original drafts to be good enough. In her discussion of these categories, Lindenman focused on the first two categories and recommended ways in which instructors could work with those students, namely that instructors discuss revision and reflection in explicit terms to help students to understand the substantial work that revision truly requires.
Next, Lindsay Jacoby discussed several successful student revisions that suggested the ways in which the study informed and confirmed their original hypothesis. Successful revisers are self-directed, able to draw on multiple factors to improve their writing, and reconfigure and reimagine their texts through their revision.
Lastly, Jessica Enoch talked about the ways in which the study and the reflective memo could be changed over time. She concluded with suggestions to increase the integration and explanation of the nature of reflection and revision. In addition, Enoch also noted that some of the results may have been impacted by the nature of the reflective memo—another site of potential change and further study. By the end of the session, the panelists had reflected on the nature of reflection and revision, discussed their data collection, and presented their findings in an effort to explore in greater detail the reflective memo as a potential metacognitive exercise in the composition classroom.