I give my writing students opportunities to revise during the first half of the semester, and encourage extensive revisions, as in, re-thinking the thesis and whole argument revisions.
I decided to require that students come talk to me with a revision plan in hand about their revisions before I'd accept them, and it seems to be working! Only one student so far didn't have a revision plan, and that was because she really didn't understand the basics of the assignment. So we went over the textbook section on the issue we were writing about, and talked about questions and problems until she seemed to have a basic grasp. And then we worked on brainstorming a new thesis and focus for her revision. I hope it "took" and that she understands the problems.
She was frustrated because her peer editors hadn't done a good job with the thesis and essay, and hadn't given really critical feedback, and because the writing center tutor apparently hadn't either. (I'm more worried about the writing center tutor at this point because I think it's pretty typical that peer editors learn that they didn't do a very complete job on their first peer editing responses. That's part of why they're here, after all, to learn to read critically and communicate and all.) Here's where the revision thing is great, because I could acknowledge the frustration, but could also get the student to see that she hadn't actually done everything possible to get a good grade (always the grade) because she could still revise, and I'd happily read a draft of her revision and such.
While I mentioned the two dreadful papers in the last stack, I have to also mention that two of the papers were outstanding. One of the writers of those papers came to talk to me about her second BIG draft of her next paper. And that's why she wrote such a great paper the first time. Each time, she started out with a not very successful draft, came and conferenced early, and then went out and put in the time to totally rethink and revise the essay. The next step is to help her write stronger first drafts. I hope that will com with time, but maybe I can encourage her to come brainstorm before she begins writing? (Though maybe she really needs to write things out to find out where she wants to go? Her first drafts have both had some really smart, thoughtful kernels to work from.)
Now I'm beginning to read a stack for another class. The first essay was just wonderful! YAY, go students!!! This one was written by a student who'd done a ton of serious revision work after her draft, and again, she did a great job. I'm filled with hope!
I love conferencing. I love the performative part of teaching in front of a class and trying to get points across effectively, but in a one on one conference, I have a much stronger sense of the student as a person and writer, and I can really focus on helping them get where they want to get. There's something elementally pleasurable in making a connection and helping someone write more effectively or whatever. I think that's one of the reasons I'd really balk at trying to teach on-line. I just want to talk to people, see faces, see (or hope for) changes happening. (I know, sometimes the changes are momentary or illusory, but I live a rich and full fantasy life, so shush!)