Advice & News

September 15, 2022

Letting Students Revise and Resubmit: Why You Should Consider It

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When I was a Ph.D. student, I heard many times from senior scholars that receiving a "revise and resubmit" (R&R) on a submitted manuscript was a good result. Quality journals will never accept a paper on the first submission, so getting a chance to revise keeps that hope alive that the paper will get accepted. Even more important is the feedback received from the anonymous reviewers and/or editor. And when resubmitting the revised manuscripts, most scholars will acknowledge that the feedback helped improve the paper. Why not give students the same opportunity?

In video games, where failure is often built-in, the opportunity to try again is what motivates players to keep going and learn more about how to do better. There is a sense of accomplishment when they can finally get that achievement, win the battle, or just make it to the next level. Allowing students to revise work similarly gives them hope and motivation to achieve in learning, just like receiving an R&R on a manuscript keeps hope alive for faculty.

I always found that it takes far more time to grade bad papers than good. I would give far more feedback to the bad papers. But then, students would seldom actually read it. Even if they did, it would typically have little impact. But when I started letting students revise and resubmit work, they were much more likely to read and incorporate my feedback. Best of all, it made grading easier in the long run.

I can say from experience that students appreciate the opportunity to revise and resubmit. It's one of the most frequent comments I get from students at the end of the semester.

Who Should Consider Letting Students Revise and Resubmit?
  • This might be right for you if you are someone who emphasizes student learning and de-emphasizes grades. The main reason to allow students to revise assignments is to improve student learning. It emphasizes that the goal or purpose of assignments is to learn, not to get a grade.
  • If you are someone who already provides a lot of feedback to students, this will be a good fit, if you're not doing it already. It helps ensure that students read your feedback and actually use it.
  • If you are someone who struggles to assign low grades to students who you know are trying, using revise and resubmit can help. Rather than giving a low grade, you mark an assignment as "revise." As discussed below, this mark replaces the whole middle range of D through B.
  • If you are someone who is looking for ways to make grading easier, this might be for you. Students will learn what you are looking for and will do better on later assignments, meaning they should be easier to grade.
  • If you are someone who wants students to know that you care about their learning, using revise and resubmit does that. It encourages students to learn and correct their mistakes and shows that you want them to do well and learn, not just give them a grade.
Student Life Conditions Have Changed

In a perfect world, students have good living conditions, proper food, and good mental health and are financially stable. But that, of course, is far less common today. Recent studies indicate that roughly 3 out of 5 students suffer from food and/or housing insecurity, which has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that these are basic needs, fulfilling them will take priority over classes. This might mean spending time finding places to couch surf or chasing down opportunities for free or discounted food, leaving less time for schoolwork. If they are nutrient- and/or sleep-deficient, students are less able to concentrate, leading to lower quality on tests and assignments. The Mayo Clinic reports an increase in depression and anxiety among students. Rising costs for tuition, food, and housing just add more stress for students.

Giving students the opportunity to revise their work takes some of the pressure off them. That's not to say that quality will decrease. Students should still put effort into their work to get the highest rating possible. But knowing that if they don't get things 100% right, they can revise it helps reduce their anxiety about their grades. Feedback is more likely to be framed positively (how you can improve to get a higher rating) rather than negatively (here's what you did wrong and why you didn't get full points), further helping to reduce stress and anxiety that come with receiving less-than-perfect grades.

In a follow-up article, I will discuss ways to implement revise and resubmit and lessons I learned to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made. If you've tried using R&R, or something similar, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.

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