In His Own Words – Dr. Edward Brent - Higher Education

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In His Own Words – Dr. Edward Brent

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In His Own Words – Dr. Edward Brent

Dr. Edward Brent, a professor of sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has developed a computer program that can grade hundreds of student essays in minutes and provide feedback. The time-saving program encourages students to revise their work, resulting in greatly improved final drafts. In his own words, Brent explains how gender, income and racial gaps essentially disappear when students incorporate the program’s feedback and resubmit their essays.

“If professors grade by hand, students submit one essay and the professor grades it and that’s it. There’s no revision and no chance to change. It isn’t that the professor doesn’t want to give feedback and allow revisions; the professor doesn’t have time. With the computer program, students can revise multiple times, and that makes their average go from 70 percent to 90 percent. When we review the essays, we see a big difference. The last drafts are longer and much more careful. If students come in with education deficit — like males tend to do worse in writing exercises than females — in the first draft, males are significantly lower. But by the last draft they are equal. We’re hoping the same [results] will be found among minority and English as a second language learners and first-generation college students. Imagine a student new to college who doesn’t have a strong educa-tional background. The first time they answer a question they miss things, but when they see what they did wrong, they start to improve. When students revise, they will keep revising until they get to 90 percent. When you give people a chance to improve, they’ll work to make up weaknesses.”

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